He has flown headfirst against the glass
and now lies stunned on the stone patio,
nothing moving but his quick beating heart.
So you go to him, pick up his delicate
body and hold him in the cupped palms
of your hands. You have always known
he was beautiful, but it’s only now, in his stillness,
in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle
of his being, how so much life fits in so small
a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm
against the unseasonable cold, trusting that
when the time is right, when he has recovered
both his strength and his sense of up and down,
he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,
and then rise, a streak of dazzling
color against a slowly lifting sky.
Yesterday when this poem came to me for the third time, I was already entranced by it and knew it was time to share it with you. It is a rare poem that takes a weighty, broad topic like divorce and tells you about an experience of it without ever mentioning the word beyond the title. Were you surprised when you read to the end and realized what the poet had done?
I suspect most of us have heard the sudden thump on a window and jumped up to see what small bird has flown into the clear glass, wondering if it is still alive. Perhaps you, too, have picked up its delicate body to hold him in the cupped palms of your hands. And did you, too, realize the miracle / of his being, how so much life fits in so small / a space? And did you wait, trusting that / when the time is right, he will rise, a streak of dazzling / color against a slowly lifting sky? Did you recognize your own hurt self in this compassionate scene?
In all of this, the poet has not once told us he is writing about a bird, much less about a heart broken, whether by divorce or some other of life’s sorrows. This is the magic and medicine of poetry – that there is language to describe heartbreak and vulnerability and tender care and ultimately resilience. I hope that if this poem resonates with you, it will give you comfort, knowing you will gather yourself in time and rise into a slowly lifting sky.