In the Songs of Birds

When I was three,
My mother taught me to read,
And words
Became playthings and playmates
As I sat in the back of the restaurant
Watching her work her dream to death.

Later, as I grew,
Family losses piled, heaped
Weighty upon the shoulders of a nine-year-old.
Words became
Escape, shelter, survival,
A path out of destruction.

And so, words stayed
For more years than I’d care to say.

But now here,
Waking mornings,
Hearing birdsong,
Or in early evening,
The warm sun blanketing
My skin as I fill the birdfeeders,
I hear words in the songs of birds.
Silly though it may seem,
The cardinals have much to say,
“It’s cheaper here. It’s cheaper here.”
To “Pretty, pretty, pretty.”
The mockingbirds chatter away
Announcements of “She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.”
And I’m not sure which bird continually asks,
“Wanna see, wanna see, wanna see a receipt?”
All the while, the Blue Jays squawk away,
Warning all the others,
“Stay away! Stay away!”
Then in the chittering of the squirrels,
I hear the demand,
“Where’s the food? Where’s the food?
You let the food run out! How dare you?”
As they scurry away,
Pretending, at least, to be afraid of me.

Among all the noise and chatter
All the words of birds and squirrels
One word, never felt before now,
I feel move within my chest,
Peace.

Falconry

animals_hero_red-tailed_hawk_0 (1)

A screeching hawk climbs overhead,
Gliding, swooping in pursuit,
Her flight a perfect merger
Of beauty, purpose, and skill.

If only, if only
I could capture such a hawk
Train and bend
That beauty and skill
To do the bidding of my will.

Sent forth from my hand
In a powerful surge of wings,
Pummeling air,
Finding the perfect draught of air
To glide upon,
Turning, searching for prey,
Then sighting her trophy, her prize,
Sweeping down, a beat of wings,
A shift of body,
Talons extended,
What seems a pause,
A slowing,
Talons snatching,
Squeezing, sinking into a snake’s skin,
Wings beat, once, twice,
A cry as she lifts her body
And her limp prize,
Upon the air to glide,
Turning homeward,
The purity of her purpose,
A dance upon the air,
Done.

If only, if only
From my hand could fly
Such beautiful purity of purpose.

Dance

 

I knew how to dance once.
Didn’t have to think
about the placement of feet,
a way back when the movement
of elegance and grace,
of heat and passion,
of fun and joy
was all rhythms
I could hear and follow,
Reveling in the feel
Before a shoulder snapped out of joint,
Hanging limply at my side,
And I unlearned the lessons of dance,
Unlearned all the intricacies
Of the Argentine,
Unlearned the grace
Of the Viennese,
Unlearned the joy
Of doing double time.

Unlearned everything of dance
Until I barely remembered
I once knew how to dance.

Then I tried to learn The Texas Two Step
And failed and failed and failed
Couldn’t feel the steps and glides
That looked so easy, so fun
And I wondered if I ever had known
How to really dance.
Maybe once, a long time ago,
I could have mastered this,
This Texas Two Step dance.

Splinters and Ash

 

Splinters these things:
A Cherrywood vanity
Of fine detail,
Queen Anne legs
And dovetailed drawers,
A square ring left in the surface of the finish,
Where perfume dripped down the sides
Of a stoppered crystal bottle;
A dull walnut jewelry box
With red velvet lined drawers,
An attached mirror
Makes it too large,
Ungainly, for today.

These things, leavings,
Leftovers of a life lived,
For remembrance, for reverence,
Symbols of the intangible
As spring greenery
Is glimpsed and seen
Through a sunlit dusty screen
On a late afternoon,
Containing a muted gold softness
One can never touch.

Lackluster as they are,
They are her, her leavings,
The leftovers of the grinding times
She spent between
Rocks and hard places.

You will have her splinters
And my dusty ashes:
A picture or two, photo albums,
Old fashioned things to look through,
No links to clouds but to history, yours;
Some pencil scratching and ink splatters,
Words hurled, tattooed, etched, brushed
Upon page after page,
Notebook after notebook,
Drive after drive;
Yet you will never know or guess
How many were destroyed,
Burned, ripped, broken,
All trashed over my years.

And if you should read my leftovers?
Press your lips together,
Drawing them thin?
Sigh and raise an eyebrow?
Roll your eyes then burn it all?
Or simply, send it all to the trash
In green plastic bags?
Or
Find one old photo,
one written line
Worth the keeping,
For remembrance sake?
Perhaps, perhaps

You will find something
Among my dust and ash leavings
Of the grinding times I spent
Between rocks and hard places
And view it
As spring greenery is seen
Though a sunlit pollen dusty screen,
Void of vibrancy,
But containing a muted gold softness
One can feel yet never touch
Then know my damning sin,
Like Jonson’s, “was too much hope of thee”
Then find your heart softened and free.

For You

 

Words drift
Settle, pile up
In drifts and banks
Over the rocks
In my mind.

I walk through
This blizzard of words,
Watch them settling
On my shoulders,
For a moment, perfect
As exquisitely delicate lace
Before disappearing,
Melting into the wool of my coat,
Gone, lost to me forever.

But not you,
Never be lost to me.

When I’ve had nothing else,
Words were always there,
Trusted and true,
Counted on, relied upon,
Supplying all I needed,
When there was nothing and no one.

But for you,
To always have you,
I’d watch them all–
Drifts, banks, flakes
Melt, dripping away
Into spring
And you.

Words Fail

 

Feast on a meal of bitter herbs
As you sit in the old rocking chair
Witnessing eyes like your own
Staring at you with murderous hate
You cannot sit where once you rocked warm softness

You stand, pace a bit, perch on a stool
And think of all those years ago,
Had you known, had you known–
Smeared the lamb’s blood on the lintel
And waited in prayer
For the cloud of contagion to pass

Faith becomes a sour cup
From which to drink,
And the writer’s ink dries to dust
Upon the page,
Swept away
By the winds of age.

11:12 AM Picture Sent

 

Such discarnate words
have no power, life–
struggle so for air, color–
to capture some tell-tale sign
of the animate.
Letters swirl and dance
in some perverse pretense of desire
to procreate,
to mirror a thing
resembling the beauty
in a picture sent at 11:12 AM
of yellow irises,
wandering purple jew,
privet sprigs and blooms,
purple sage flowers,
and rosemary sprigs
in perfect arrangement.
But these letters,
these words
never find
that perfection,
that beauty,
that touch upon a heart, upon a soul
as flowers chosen and cut
from your yard
and arranged
by your hands.