She sat on the deck, face in the shade, legs in the sun, reading books about griefs and
tragedies by people she’d met in the far away city at chic literary events. She’d cry a little
or watch a small mammal run across the road.
Once when she was on the phone with a poet who lived on the other coast and she
described the creature she thought was a beaver, woodchuck, or hedgehog, the poet on
the other coast assured her, with great confidence, that it was a woodchuck. He explained
that woodchucks’ legs are designed for hills and that’s why when running on flat ground the
animal looked like he was hopping on his back legs.
“I’m totally Annie Dillard,” she told the poet even though she totally wasn’t and didn’t even
know the names of the animals or birds or trees or flowers and had trouble sitting still and
spent most of her time wondering why she wasn’t writing and was instead reading sad
memoirs by people she had recently met.
Every day she watched the UPS truck or USPS truck come toward her up the road and then
turn into the driveway before hers, make a three-point turn and head away before reaching
Once there was a jackdaw black as soot with a bright eye, a voice like a broken bell and
some nasty habits she couldn’t help. More and more she looked like her mother. Same
expressions, similar fears and aspirations. This summer everyone seemed able to hurt her
feelings even with small offenses and minor insensitivities. The husband hated it when she
cried. Her scrunched wet face made him feel helpless and feeling helpless made him
angry and his anger made him mean. She would then accuse him of being unhappy
and decide that she was in this—meaning life—all alone and couldn’t rely on him for anything
and for days would go about dry-eyed with a hard aloofness, her chin slightly raised, arms
crossed over her chest. But these were the feathers of other birds and neither she nor the
husband had any patience for finery which they both considered pretentious and
inauthentic even if they did in their own way appreciate art for art’s sake. Then they’d
kerfuffle and say hurtful things and all her carefully assembled armature would fall away.
Then she would appear again as the ordinary jackdaw he loved.
RACHEL ZUCKER is the author of several books of poetry, most recent, Museum of Accidents. She teaches poetry at NYU and is a certified labor doula. “The Eagle and the Crow” and “The Jackdaw” are from a new (unpublished) collection: Fables. Visit www.rachelzucker.net for more information.