Nature represents sides of Wilson in these poems, or sides she hopes to uncover. The red-eared slider lives instinctively; the wetlands frog chorus is a constant against a changing and often dangerous world. The white fox becomes in some sense the speaker’s mother (“My Mother Comes to Me”). In “The Latch,” the situation of a sheep becomes a way to understand and accept the end of an 18-year marriage: a sheep has escaped the enclosure her farmer placed her in and gotten herself stuck. The speaker and her husband, honeymooning in England, come upon her head “caught between the top two wires [of a fence], her fleece / snarled in the barbs.” The speaker recalls how they grabbed her horns and eased her head free, letting her continue munching grass on the hill to which she had earlier escaped, reflecting:
We could’ve worked the latch, swung the gate
and put her in but we didn’t find the gate until
we’d walked a quarter mile beyond the ewe
now back to munching on the hill, and anyway,
hadn’t we escaped what owns us just to be here,
wasn’t the beckoning louder than the latch?
The latch becomes the means by which husband and wife might have fastened themselves to a smaller arena of life than they desired in order to be safe, but which they left open, allowing themselves to follow the beckoning that gave them both freedom and fear.
Wilson’s poems’ aural richness widens their meanings. Take, for instance, her use of repetition in Empty Is Good, where the word “empty” occurs six times in 16 lines in a sequence of increasing need, starting with empty and ready to be refilled, as a dishwasher, and culminating in human loss: empty as how a person feels when they have lost someone precious. This dense use of sound creates emotional complexity, as in the first two stanzas of “And Prayer Is One Kind of Faith”:
Dear black polished table,
a bird I’d never heard
became a baby’s colicky wail.
It wasn’t the baby’s distress
pinned me all night to the window,
but the bone-weary mother I wanted to rock—