for G. Z.
The knot of roots that used to be
a bird perched in the lilac bush
now sits long-legged atop
my file cabinet, fast
friends with an alarm clock
and an aloe vera that has dangled
its tattered crown down on
a ridiculous length of rope. What I
can only call a knot may not ever
have been bird – but certainly
something difficult to name
that spoke of hope, Dickinson’s
thing with feathers. The lifted wings,
the fanned tail tell of just-
arrested flight, as if by window
(the wingbone broken in mid-wish,
the tiny clot in the brain that clogs
the unfathomable works) or
from a cell phone tower’s fatal wink.
Frayed muscles can snap, they said,
appalled – the survey team
that found an entire midnight
flock of warblers dead or dying,
littering the ground all around
some guy-wired, steel-girdered
ridgetop Lorelei. It seems
the low clouds & fog forced them down
& the tower’s lights were just right to take
the place of polestars. Imagine it:
to have one’s deep instinctual quest
(like a sex drive, except it’s toward a place)
derailed in favor of this frantic circling –
a comet captured by an unexpected sun.
They will not tell you this on the 6:00
o’clock news. There’s always
some lurid tale of a car crash or drug
bust right down the street, my God,
they were all such good kids, too – straight As,
athletic scholarships . . .
But this – knobs & bumps
of wood, clumped
ends of rhizomes, the grain
that could be feathers, the missing
claws and beak that I neglected
earlier to mention – this isn’t
bird in the hand, but in the bush.
I was myself to blame or credit for it.
(It was I, said the sparrow, with
my little arrow.) I cut it
from the bank with a shovel
when I moved the wall back.
The lilac seemed unaffected.
It remains a sturdy refuge from
the sharp-shinned hawk, a place
where bluebird or cardinal straight
from the bath can ruffle dry their feathers, &
where a hundred other contingencies
might flourish – wholly unguessed at –
down among the baroque
& deliberate roots.