Shape Shift Poems


A father explains to his son how the stock market works while they walk the trail around Percy Priest Lake. The whole time his father is talking, the boy can’t take his eyes off an owl watching them from high in a tree. The father is so irritated by his boy’s distractibility that he stops the lesson and climbs the tree to merge his own with the owl’s being. The moon is in the tree near the end of daylight. The owl’s wingspan astonishes the boy as the bird flies north to Ohio.


[Cliff Jumping]

One day he’ll jump from the ledge
and upon hitting the water
turn instantly into a fish.
The other boys will leap after him
because given such a great height
he wasn’t supposed to go first.
[He isn’t The Brave One.]
Thrashing around in their old forms
they’ll wonder which way he went
and swimming ashore empty-handed
wager against cold silence
as to where in the wild
blue bodies store.

[The fish found themselves
at the surface of the parted wave.
No hooks meant no fear.
Gamble your gills to the air!]

He wasn’t invited to the quarry today
but paced above the boys in plain sight.
Who can stop his watching
after such long falls
sudden caudal wakes?


[Trail Guide]

At the edge of the forest, his sister complains that everyone, mother, father, all friends combined, hates her. How exasperating, the light she puts herself in. She receives more than her fair share of attention. “The only way anyone will hate you,” they’re stepping in with the trees by now, “is if you make them.”

“How can I make them?”

“By letting them know that you think they do,” he says, “when you know in your heart it isn’t true. Keep close. It gets a little steep here.”

“But even if I could make them,” she’s finding her footing by now, “why would I?”

He raises his finger to his lips, but instead of shushing her he complains that everyone, mother, father, all friends combined, hates him. This is exasperating given how wildly we dote on him. “The only way we’re ever going to hate you,” we explain as we enter the forest, “is if you make us.”

“Why would I?” He’s hardly found his footing.

We raise our fingers to our lips to shush him, as some kind of animal is passing through. If we stay both still and quiet, we frantically wave him in behind us, we might get a peek at it.