Three Poems
​First Deaths

I found my tabby cat in the barn
with white foam blooming from his mouth,

my mouse shaking with seizures in its pine shavings.
When my rabbit screamed, I knew it was because

it was leaving me. And when they said the chick 
with the stretched neck had to be culled, I ran to my room

to my icy blue parakeet, feathers fluffed 
only minutes before, and found him 

dead and stiff at the bottom of his wire cage. 
I picked him up, held him like a hollow toy, 

and he was lighter somehow, 
as if his soul had weight. 

We buried the birds by the barn where, years later,
my dog, almost as old as I was, would lie swaddled 

in a bed sheet as if to nap, and where 
my black pony was lowered into the earth  

in the metal mouth of a crane while I closed 
the curtains and hid in a book. 

Now, I watch my horses in the field, and I wonder
what keeps them from falling, as I have always wondered

how planes are elevated by air, and why corpses cannot stand 
on their own—as if there is a desire in the dead to lie down 

and rest. Still, my horses balance on thin, bony legs,
their heads turned toward the sound of the wind 

being dragged by unseen fingers, their barrel bodies 
somehow lifted from the earth, 

their souls, like helium, 
keeping them adrift. 

Fisherman’s Wool

When we were old enough to leave home, 
our parents bought us Aran sweaters from Ireland 
to match their own. Made from fisherman’s wool 
to keep them dry at sea, these sweaters once identified 
Irish clans, who wove stories into the patterns—cable stitches 
like fishing rope, designs like Celtic sketches of island fields 
and abundant harvests—and wore them like last names
or family crests. To me, the diamond ridges looked like the scales 
of a fish, or like the mesh nets that would entangle them, 
and I imagined the fishermen, preparing to launch, 
pulling the sweaters over their skins as if to remind themselves 
that they were caught. And I imagined wives and mothers 
knitting patterns like prayers into the weave of the wool 
for their loved ones, knowing that, if they drowned, 
the sweaters would be recognized, 
and they would be brought home. 

To a Moth

You didn’t hide your adolescence like the others, cloaked 
in construction-paper shells or cotton-ball casings, 
stuck in the folds of leaves like gum in wads 
of paper. Instead, you clung to the corner of your 
glass house in a felted egg, as thin as membrane, 
revealing your translucent body—a wax candle in a 
frosted window. You stripped your false legs first, 
gathering them at your insect feet like slippers 
cast off before bed, and then I saw 
grey wings budding from your back,
blanketing you for deeper sleep. 

I found you on the wall by the window, 
as if you had tried to abandon your nest unnoticed 
and unrecognized beneath your humble wings. I cupped 
you in my hands, felt you flutter against my palms 
like a heart in a ribcage, and I let you go, knowing 
your fate was to flock around light like the shadow 
of a greater winged creature, hoping for sunrise to color 
the night upon your back.

EMILY DIEHL is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee where she works as an editor at her alma mater. A 2016 graduate with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, she will soon be participating in the MFA program at Western Kentucky University. 
The Adirondack Review