Rising Variance as an Early Warning

Madhur Anand

Today mother transplanted herself to the back deckwithout the walker. It was the sun, her first time outsince the fall. The verb falling, the fractures curing,her eyes closed when I joined her. “Days are becoming long,”she said. And then in Punjabi: “Two birds. One calling.One giving the answer.” I know and she knows she hasnever heard these birds before. It took me some fortyyears to learn such songs myself. But today’s back and forthfeels like something new. The two-toned cardinals could bedoing social work, averting warming, or slowingdown time. Like that Chinese lake I read was flickering—alternating between its two states, dead or healthy—taking twenty years to settle on one. The birds aregone but I’m still listening. One grandchild oscillateson the rusted swing set with past summers’ wasp nests thriceremoved. Creak, creak. The visual is a sine wave whichbecomes near-sighted near the end. I still use that trickI discovered in childhood: if I want to be curedof hiccups I pretend to badly want the next one.I wish some things would just die a little more in spring.

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Madhur Anand is a poet and the author of A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (McClelland & Stewart/PRHC, 2015). She is a professor of ecology and sustainability at the University of Guelph. Her experimental creative-nonfiction book This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart was published in 2020 (Strange Light/PRHC).

May/June 2020

Gambier, Ohio

Kenyon College

The David F. Banks Editor
Nicole Terez Dutton

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