Aurora Borealis

for my sister

That night she left her newborn in his crib
and went out into the world which had begun shrinking,
like a hairline does in the beginning, to hint
at its eventual drift into extinction. Had she heard
the cattle bawling as they trampled, snuffing against
the windows in bovine curiosity, or was it real
exultation, that freedom that makes dairy cattle gallop
and swing unwieldy udders against their spindly legs.

she had heard them even before the neighbor's phone call
pulled them from that fuzzy existence of the just-roused,
she, still heavy with birth's post-partum guilt,
dreaming again of her newborn's jaundiced body placed
in the sunlight like an offering, the malleable pink
toes peeling free from their birth-skin, her own
caul-wrapper that once had kept him safe.
Why would she leave him sleeping in the night to help
corral the neighbor's wayward cattle? Habit, perhaps,
accustomed as she was to nighttime chores, or maybe
fear-the cattle as harbingers of the intrusive world,
snooping into her safehouse. When she tells me now,
years later, that baby a growing boy, how she came out
into the yard that night, I know that something changed for her.

She came out of the shadows, the same ones that envelop
each of our houses on certain nights, and outside,
it was light, a kind of day, brilliant and silver
on her bare arms, not a moon's light, more luminescent,
prophetic. I like to think of her with arms raised
to some northern god of light descending to earth,
her face lit in exultation and thanks to whatever
makes of itself a dawn, whatever takes the sun in
to its night to magnetize the darkness, all the crazy
disturbances of sunlight sucked into earth's perimeter
and changed to shining, like gathering the worlds' moons
and holding them arced against the cold horizon.

©Raylene Hinz-Penner