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"Yesterday the bird of night did sit,
Even at noon-day, upon the marketplace,
Hooting and shrieking."

—William Shakespeare


Imagine waking
to a scene of snow so new 
not even memories
of other snow
can mar its silken
surface. What other innocence 
is quite like this,
and who can blame me
for refusing
to violate such whiteness
with the booted cruelty
of tracks?


Though I cannot leave this house, 
I have memorized the view
from every window—
23 framed landscapes, containing 
each nuance of weather and light. 
And I know the measure
of every room, not as a prisoner 
pacing a cell
but as the embryo knows
the walls of the womb, free
to swim as its body tells it, to nudge 
the softly fleshed walls,
dreading only the moment
of contraction when it will be forced 
into the gaudy world.


Sometimes I travel as far
as the last stone
of the path, but
every step,
as in the children's story,
pricks that tender place
on the bottom of the foot,
and like an ebbing tide with all
the obsession of the moon behind it, 
I am dragged back.


I have noticed in windy fall
how leaves are torn from the trees, 
each leaf waving goodbye to the oak 
or the poplar that housed it;
how the moon, pinned
to the very center of the window,
is like a moth wanting only to break in. 
What I mean is this house
follows all the laws of lintel and ridgepole, 
obeys the commandments of broom 
and of needle, custom and grace.
It is not fear that holds me here but passion 
and the uncrossable moat of moonlight 
outside the bolted doors.

© Linda Pastan