The long water rustles inside the sleeve
of itself, & for the mother merganser alert by

the shore I’m stripped of titles—father, husband, 
son. I’m just the nameless shadow too close to

her seven ricocheting hatchlings. Do I know this
stretch of water better or worse because I know

its name? The problem is: if I brand each object
in the world I no longer have to see it. I imagine

the landscape stripped of consonant and vowel,
that layer of film that sullies the world.

Onion grass tries to go back to its curlicue
of green, Whiteface Mountain recedes to a glacier-

bitten wedge, the ducklings retract to feathered protoplasm. 
It’s useless. Curlicue, glacier, feather: the labels snap back

into place, & the birds fly back towards their mother, 
back toward the safety of their radiant names.


Stephen Cramer’s most recent collection, Bone Music, was selected by Kimiko Hahn for the 2015 Louise Bogan Award and published in 2016 by Trio House Press. His work has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, African American Review, The Yale Review, Harvard Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. An Assistant Poetry Editor at Green Mountains Review, he teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont and lives with his wife and daughter in Burlington.