With empty hands, we approach
the goslings and their parents, paired
in awareness. We are two mothers
and two children, flightless and in jeans,
watching out for wildlife near the manmade spring.
We return every year, like the geese.
The young shuffle in awkward stumbles
from the water towards our lowered stance,
the mother nodding, the father erect,
and the smallest hand among us sifts
gravel, pretending feed. The mothers lead.
The gander takes up guard behind,
shoulders shaking with a ready hiss.
In a give and take of courage, all clumsy fluff
is on display and begging. Someone has left
corn to be scrabbled by the small black beaks.
The goslings have emerged from the clutch,
but only just, so each is tied to each,
like their parents, who will not leave the other’s side.
The babies awkwardly dun, the adults elegant
and sleek: I note the difference, the earthy weaves
we don as tops, the brilliance of spun sunlight
curling through our children’s hair. Over our heads, all
spring blooms have passed. I tell you I’ve heard a story
of the geese that says adults will molt, remain
flightless until their babies can use their wings.
They come back every year to the home
where they were reared, and stay without
the freedom that their children will soon seek.
These goslings, with their unfocused plumage,
their eyes terrified and eager, their flapping
unsure feet. These geese, waiting
for the growth of the sweet feathers
that will allow them to leave. We seed
the ground with false hopes and discarded down
for the children, the small ones, who rise
with mouths open in certain, grounded need.