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A MiscalculationKaren Solie
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Vol. 39 No. 5 · 2 March 2017
Poem

A Miscalculation

Karen Solie

262 words

Like a king from a promontory
the kestrel presides from an updraft, an array
of barely perceptible movements sustaining
balance and attention, and the woodmouse,
the shrew, the secondary characters,
know whose watch they’re under. There are no

bystanders among them. The razorbill’s piety
winters at sea, is secular and medium-sized,
black above, white below; while,
frontloaded with military technology,
gannets send notes of the aquatic scale
straight to the emotional signature clusters,

though the proprietors of these emotions
are to them as senseless an element
as the shadow I cast over a vole’s workday,
my presence too non-specific for relevance.
It was November when I made these notes,
then in absentminded self-disgust

set out on the path from Crail,
and by sunset, at four, could neither return
nor make Kingsbarns before dark.
Though no one knew where I was, real danger
lay elsewhere. No cows even. Just sleepless
fields staring skyward and the firth prowling

the forest of itself, what’s hidden as well as
what hides it. To turn back would have made sense
but I chose otherwise, a lamp post
at what I assumed was the golf course
a fixed point I couldn’t seem to advance on,
like a failure of interpretation pursued because now

it is your life. Proportion vanished. A creature
scratching at a stone dyke was big as the North
Atlantic, and my body, not as old as when visible,
became, not one with mind, but indistinguishable –
consciousness feeling with the blunt toe
of its boot as its footprints fill with groundwater.

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