Field Notes: Worcester County, December

Wasp nest, abandoned, in the bare sugar maple.

Neighbor clear-cutting his acre. Clank, drop, scrape, clang. A child says, Where do the animals go? And the nests? I get a shivery feeling.

The gulch not yet iced over.

Red-tailed hawks glide lower than usual. Their silent white bellies.

Turning my head to speak, to show, I swallow a moth. The shrapnel of its thorax sticks in my throat.

Warm. Lightning in the morning. Rain pools around the snakehead, the iris stems risen four months early.

Storm drains blocked by oak leaves. On the highest limbs scraps linger like flimsy crows.

A sand-colored mouse hops puddle to pavement, puddle to pavement underneath an idling


Woodsmoke. Roadkill: one squirrel, gray. Police horses circling in haze.

The same child says in his own voice, not the voice of a coyote or a rabbit, I thought I was going to be shot in line today. I kept telling myself, ‘You’re going to die today, you’re going to die today, you’re going to die today.’

The same wasp nest, pummeled by a night storm. Pulp in the street.

My child. My child.


Carolyn Oliver is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, 2022), winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Prize. Carolyn’s poems appear in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Radar, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, Plume, DIALOGIST, and elsewhere.  ( 


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