Divorce by José A. Alcántara

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.

Divorce

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.

The Lesser Goldfinch by Connie Wanek

It was hardly bigger than an apricot,

a goldfinch, yes, but smaller and paler,

a little ghost in the lavender

eating seeds too tiny for

my old eyes. Sometimes I think

Heaven needn’t measure

even two by two

inches, much less all the sky

above the Vatican;

for peace is lodged deep

within the very

spacious thought of itself.

Quiet bird, your gestures

are vast in such a place

as I dream of.

The Lesser Goldfinch

I saw a tiny goldfinch the other morning in our Hydrangea tree, a brief flicker of songbird sunshine before it flew elsewhere. And then I saw this poem and each seemed to speak to the other so here you are. The finch is said to symbolize liveliness, exuberance and enthusiasm in your life – I felt that in the moment.

I was taken by the idea of comparing this bird which I will likely never hold, to an apricot which I most likely will. This makes it tangible, gives it some weight, slight though it would be. Something so small and pale that it appears as a little ghost in the lavender, feeding on tiny seeds. Perhaps you have seen one too.

She moves from this elegant description of such a small bird to placing it in the context of a heaven which needn’t measure even two by two inches. This feathered creature is as good as heaven itself in the poet’s eyes and doesn’t need all the sky / above the Vatican – vast yet contained.

In this bird she sees peace deep within, with movements that give vision to such a place / as I dream of. The image of that fleeting goldfinch remains with me, a flash of golden light and a sense that it held so much more than its tiny body suggests.

Untitled by Abigail Echo-Hawk

When they buried the children

What they didn’t know

They were lovingly embraced

By the land

Held and cradled in a mother’s heart

The trees wept for them, with the wind

they sang mourning songs their mothers

didn’t know how to sing

bending branches to touch the earth

around them. The Creator cried for them

the tears falling like rain.

Mother Earth held them

until they could be found.

Now our voices sing the mourning songs

with the trees. the wind. light sacred fire

ensure they are never forgotten as we sing

JUSTICE

I could not think of any other poem that speaks more poignantly of this week’s heart-stopping news of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops B.C. For years we have heard horrific tales of the abuse of indigenous children in these schools, stories that are hard to comprehend. This poem is a different story, one that says to me: pay attention; this is real; remember them; ensure they are never forgotten.

Abigail Echo-Hawk is a Pawnee artist and poet unknown to me until yesterday – thank you Julie for sharing this. So often it requires the tender fierceness of a poet’s voice to speak the unspeakable – Now our voices sing the mourning songs. May we all mourn these children lovingly embraced / by the land / held and cradled in a mother’s heart and their families, as well as the failure of goodness in humanity that led to this. And may we also remember that there are poets who can help us bear this weight by showing us that in the depths of grief, there is also beauty and reverence in the embrace of Mother Earth, a way to honour these lives.