tanka

tanka--
small songs I sing
to join
my voice to other voices
hidden in the grass

Monday, October 17, 2011

Flying Blind


How exactly the wren’s body fits
the palm of my hand.  How smoothly
the fan of the wing opens and shuts,

the windward edge of each gray feather
laddered with brown and gold.
The bird’s head hangs limp,

her neck snapped in the collision
with a wall she never saw—
one eye is missing.  Yesterday

I touched a half-blind goldfinch
at the feeder, feasting on thistle seed
and unafraid. With side-set eyes,

a bird can see at once both crumb
and kestrel; the loss of an eye’s the loss
of half the world.  

Once a girl
sat in a green meadow
with an open book; a one-eyed

sparrow settled on her knee,
and stayed, cocking its head
and preening--and there settled

over the girl a sense of being
as solid, as rooted, and as trusted
as the limb of an oak

and therefore capable in turn
of trusting the unseen
half of things.

Sixty years on,
I see my life’s been less
like a tree

and more
like a half-blind sparrow
blundering through thickets.  

Which is why I gently place
the body of the wren
between the white oak roots,

the soft buff belly-down exposed
and the clenched, reptilian claws
extending toward the sky.

Pinesong: Awards 2011  (North Carolina Poetry Society)

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