Back Porch Aubade

by Anna Ross

Through the highway’s underlying monochord,
through gear-strain and down shift on avenues
marked with blue and white Evacuation Route signs
(a siren interrupts, then recedes),
through air brake release and city bus clutch at corners,
a slight hollow wooden mallet tremolo—Tap-tap.
It could be the neighbor’s downspout
dripping to the gutter, but no, too rhythmic—
stopping and again starting as though
it’s caught me catching it here, on the porch,
having just let our chickens out into the backyard,
yesterday’s snow subsiding to rain,
and the buds on the apple trees surviving
despite late freeze. Tap-tap. I strain for it—
a second hand that records and then relents.
Is it in the elm grown thin with disease
or a street-leaning spruce? Tap-tap. My alarm
buzzes my hip, and inside the house
the kids need breakfast, shoes, coats
before we leave to meet the school bus
already shouldering its metronomic
warning lights through traffic toward our curb.
And how can there be chickens and apple trees
amid all this asphalt and combustion?
How can there be children, but there are, and also
on a storm-softened trunk somewhere nearby,
its quick bill pausing then resuming dissection
of bark and wood rot for ants or beetle larvae—anything
that moves or grows within it—a woodpecker.

Published on January 8, 2017