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.


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.

17 thoughts on “Divorce by José A. Alcántara

  1. Good one, Jan. This poem reminded me of when I held my cat at the emergency Vets office. SHe did bounce back and all is right now. Happy day to you.


  2. This is the perfect metaphor! Simply beautiful. I saw this poem some time last year and sent it to a friend who was going through a divorce. He could relate, and I think it gave him hope at a very difficult time. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Indeed what poetry can do, Jan. What a wonderful poem. I too have held a stunned bird in my hand and waited for it to warm, to re-settle its wings, for the light to return to the dark eye. A beautiful metaphor for how my life took flight finally after my divorce, after the shock of it wore off. And such wise guidance for holding ourselves very gently in those times of sudden deep sorrow, trusting in the slowly lifting sky.


  4. Dear Jan: Like Wendy, I have held a window-bashed bird in my hands, placed it gently on the ground, and then watched how, at length, it flew up to a branch and settled there for another long time. Such an original and compassionate perspective on divorce or any other event that deeply wounds the heart. Thank you for introducing this poem to me. In fact, through your blog, I’ve discovered many wonderful and memorable poems. Thank you, dear heart!


  5. Such a pleasure to share these poems just as I learn from your poem basket Mary Lou. It is truly a memorable experience and as you say an original perspective. love to you, Jan


  6. After my brother killed himself in 2007, my sister-in-law kept seeing a small blue bird flying near the house, resting on posts & fences near her house. One day, it flew inside the house and went on to the top edge of the lounge suite, sitting on the spot where my brother would sit. She fully believed it was Martin who came back to her. The bird stayed around the house, on one occasion knocking itself out on the glass double door. She went out, picked him up, stroked him, until he recovered and set him free telling him “Martin you can fly free now”. The bird never returned. She said she thought the bird flew into the window because, like Martin, it was short sighted. She felt once he knew she understood the bird was him he could finally leave her.

    Of course you know that I did not believe this was my dead brother. But I thought you might like to hear that story best Maggie [image: image.png]


    • Dear Maggie, how touching, I absolutely believe that Martin’s spirit returned to his wife and though I do know that you do not, I am grateful to you for sharing this comforting story. best to you, Janice


      • Whether literally or not, perhaps in some other energetic state, it makes sense in synchronicities as this that one may dance with life as it appears in less than logical ways. It’s mostly ideas we live in, yes? What a wonderful response to care for the bird, to care for herself and for her dead husband. The healing seems to be openness, kindness, release, honoring… honoring all of it as part of this experience.


  7. How very beautiful Jan. It truly is the magic and medicine of poetry to be able to use language to describe “heartbreak, vulnerability, care and resilience” and offer such comfort. Thank you.


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