The raven appears, conjured
out of coal and spirited to the snowfield. 
She’s almost invisible, the sun behind her,
and she extends a wing, asks 

if you’re still paying attention,
mentions the squirrels knocking snow
out of the spruce, and can you see
those willow buds swelling?

This must be a dream, the white so deep
it’s almost black, and the riverside air so warm.
Her other wing waves, a half-flap,
behavior that makes sense but accomplishes

nothing. How did you get here? she asks, 
eyes like a chip of tiger beetle carapace, 

Where did you come from, to be standing
hip-deep in an edgeless, opal field?
She prods you on what feels like your shoulder,
so you turn, turn, and keep going around

for a while: trees, then not, then mountains
cut by a river, and she asks, Where are you going?
just as you come back around, again,
coal clucking at you and the wheel of your feet



James Engelhardt’s poems have appeared in many journals, including North American Review, Laurel Review, Hawk and Handsaw, and Painted Bride Quarterly. He is an Acquisitions Editor for the University of Illinois Press.