Today was fine and clear in the afternoon, and I walked out and looked around. Along the main road, I followed an empty lot that was just dry gravel, no pavement. Beside it, I watched for a long time a very graceful bird who looked back boldly at me. I am a known and devoted bird-fancier. Only lately, my rock doves have brought new young to meet me. This was a wee, small bird, with a high clear voice that I knew at once–without knowing how I knew it. The longer I stood listening and watching, the more I saw the very grass was alive.
I am still sad, but I love what loves.
24 April 2016
Killdeer’s Children’s Day
The killdeer in their many wove throughout the tiny field of grass.
I stood there watching one at first, and then saw so, so many pass
before me from a thin, small way away—so many children, let
to find the strangeness staring right toward them—or if not, forget—
the way it shifts its posture. It’s no predator; it’s slow and weak;
it shows no power of flight as far as all can see. It tries to speak,
but its poor chirps and cries are false. Its mask betrays no need to harm;
we’ll go on feeding, watching out with one eye, but—sound no alarm.
Feathers rose all up inside my throat and half constricted me
from saying what I wanted, but I coughed and choked, and they let be
the music I had never once had even half an ear for. Aye,
they played me back my own prayers’ hymns for mercy under heaven’s sky.
I felt a silent presence all throughout the dreams and visions sent
each moment of my lifetime, but I doubted I existed. Lent
a sense of wonder once by one who told me he would call it back,
I just watch for signs of him all day—and never, ever lack.
Killdeer in a little patch of grass and gravel by the road
down which a million hours from now the deepest grave’s most horrid load
will lie down, free and easy—little birds that feast on maggots, worms,
and supersitions—ply your trade, and tell me when we’ve found new terms:
There’ll be lines of singing, shining stars in rows and letters, all
across the skies that fill our minds with why we rise, and why we fall—
asleep, awake, in love and out, and why birds’ friendship means so much.
When feathers meet the cold, sad ground, it warms—and tenders home love’s touch.