Early in the day of the solar eclipse
the old men who would still tell their names
to soldiers passed time combing their beards
with their fingers. Dowsers
sought underground rivers. The pumps
all lost prime, and snakes fell
from their branches. At midday hens alit
to their roosts. All afternoon the men waited
for a shave. The barber rinsed his straight razor
in the river. One man in the barber’s hands
felt someone else’s spirit
lodged low in his throat. He shrieked
and out flew a small black bird.
Out sprang a dark mammal.
Out fell a fish, plop, into the river
and it flickered silver in the red current
and slipped away. The barber took a sip
from the bottle. He washed his blade
in the water. His hands shook, but finally
the straight-backed chairs were empty.
A halo of pale hair trimmings shivered
in the twilight. The barber
saw the moon’s shadow lying
against the backs of the men’s eyes
each like a baby animal not yet awakened
from its nest. Out on the pontoon boats
amid drying nets for eel catching,
my infection worsened. By midnight, I worried,
he’d be sent to cut off my breast.

Miriam Bird Greenberg