Steve Fay

One Dance

There is a rueful fable I travel into.
The butter of me hiding its pointed brittleness.
Its cry interrupted, silent

as a sapling’s death, slow as the forest floor
turning to botanical ossuary,

wherein boughs or trunks split, leaving
ritual tears of sap, a few ants
or a mason bee enambered. And always

my surprise a failure of forethought, of
inaction, of a voice too weak

to stab the wind. My tongue long past lapping
the passing rain, floating
uncontrollably, like the improbable,

unpronounceable appendage of a just-discovered
deep-seafloor fish. Its frilly wings
flashing lemon and saffron,

already for these last few million years.
And with such undulation,

could it even have a bone? Or might even I?
Considering all the lime I have
consumed, might I have let my solids

leach away? But in that fable, I
dream the world spins up to a glassy brilliance,

and the sycamore inside me
spreads its gigantic leaves. And each time,
I can’t help hoping that just one

gray fox will dance, unseen, in the depth
of all those shadows.


Steve Fay has worked in the fields of graphic arts and editing, nature and historical interpretation in public parks, and college-level teaching of writing. His collection of poems, what nature (Northwestern UP, 1998), was cited by the editors and board of the Orion Society as one of their 10 favorite nature and culture related books of the 12-month period in which it appeared. Since the mid-1970s, his poetry has been published in Ascent, Beloit Poetry Journal, Comstock Review, Field, Hamilton Stone Review, Menacing Hedge, Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, and other journals and anthologies. He lives in Fulton County, Illinois.