Taking the Auspices at Bald Hills

Jeff Ewing


We invoke lex Ogulnia
        below the schoolhouse fire lookout,
claim our right to know our chances:

three buzzards, then four, float
        over a lightning-struck oak splayed
above the barren valley,

a ring of shadows circling east
        and dissolving on the downslope.
A dozen meadowlarks flush

ahead of us, banking as one in
        a stutter of wings like a wheel coming
loose. Wind lays the brown grass flat.

We read the signs closely, looking
        for a loophole here beyond the fog line:
we want a child so badly.

Our empire is crumbling. This morning
        the car stuttered twice turning over,
I chipped a tooth on a walnut shell—

meaning is bound up in the belly of
        everything: you disagree but nearly
cry at the dried body of a mouse.

The gods let us know when we’ve
        overreached. A goshawk screeches,
you fiddle with your wedding ring.


Jeff Ewing's poems, stories, and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Sugar House Review, Crazyhorse, Saint Ann's Review, and Lake Effect, among others. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.