for Erik Lemke (1979-2012)1. A hummingbird flies into a window
that looks like the sky. Everything around here
looks like the sky. The sky looks tiger striped.
They call that kind of cloud
something. I know somebody
who knows about clouds. I could find
out the name. Everything around here
has a name.2.
The hummingbird fell to the deck. My husband picked it up.
—What did it feel like in your hand?
—Nothing. It felt like nothing.
—Where is it now?
—Not dead. It flew away. It disappeared and it disappeared again.3.
I’ll tell you a joke. A hummingbird flew into a window…
I’ll tell you another joke. Treachery,
we were friends once.4.
In dreams the bird
weighs more, so you can feel it
when you pick it up. So when
it dies it seems
like something actually happened.
It’s a word
around your hand and a sign
at the stripped road.
A mylar star on a plastic stick
tied to the sign.
Blacktop. Post. A fat star’s
taut. It’s stuffed.
to be a party around here somewhere.
The bird weighs nothing waits nowhere.
The sky looks like a window and it flies right through.
Egon Schiele - The Daydreamer, 1911
Left: Rosalind Solomon, Birds
Right: Letter written by Emma Hauck to her husband while in a psychiatric hospital. The words ‘sweetheart come’ (Herzensschatzi komm), are written over and over filling the surface of the paper. (c. 1909)
A locked door is a sign of distrust so the bolt and latch are removed.
how I lie awake imaging a cabal of men assembling at the driveway’s
end, or a flock
of grackles forming overhead to sell me out, come in, come in. There
is nothing to stop you.
Birds and their truth, If there is nothing to fear then why my unease
with the two
deer feeding on the sumac in the side yard, who seem happier than
we? No doubt,
call the grackles, so I shoo them off with a metal spoon and pot. We
smell the smoke
of a cigarette in the woods, which is troublesome because we are
alone, and not smoking.
That will come. So too will knowing the only times we are meant to
is in passing cars or a trip to the grocer. Signs they are there: small
rocks kicked up
from wheels, bushels of blackberries picked by some hand, chalked
letters confirming local.
We are to be wary of anything foreign but not to show it. If a voice
the open door it is that of a friend we have not made yet. If a hand
finds its way
into our life, we are to shake it, wrap it in ours and keep it close. If
it should come
to rest on the tip of my hip in the night, I should say welcome,
welcome. Make yourself at home.
"The Spaces Between"
when love dies.
When love is deep
it hurts deeply
more deeply maybe than you thought
anything would ever hurt
But with time
the spaces between the moments when it hurts
the moments themselves become
till eventually you come to associate them
with a sad sweetness
that has as much in common with love
as it does with grief.
I will not say
Don’t grieve for me—
do I look like Saint Francis?
But I wish you long
and may you carry into them
all of that sweetness
and only enough sadness to attest
the risk that’s being taken
by everyone who loves you.
Every time we love we’re saying,
Let it ride
and what’s on the table
is the rent money.
And every time we stride again
out into the crisp desert night
our fists shoved deep into empty pockets
we know ourselves for losers.
what brave losers we are.
I wish you this too,
for the spaces in between,
mix yourself/with the strange/beauty of someone/else
Every morning I sit at the kitchen table over a tall glass of water swallowing pills.
(So my hands won’t shake.) (So my heart won’t race.) (So my face won’t thaw.)
(So my blood won’t mold.) (So the voices won’t scream.) (So I don’t reach for
knives.) (So I keep out of the oven.) (So I eat every morsel.) (So the wine goes
bitter.) (So I remember the laundry.) (So I remember to call.) (So I remember the
name of each pill.) (So I remember the name of each sickness.) (So I keep my
hands inside my hands.) (So the city won’t rattle.) (So I don’t weep on the bus.) (So
I don’t wander the guardrail.) (So the flashbacks go quiet.) (So the insomnia
sleeps.) (So I don’t jump at car horns.) (So I don’t jump at cat-calls.) (So I don’t
jump a bridge.) (So I don’t twitch.) (So I don’t riot.) (So I don’t slit a strange man’s
It waits. While I am walking through the pine trees
along the river, it is waiting. it has waited a long time.
In southern France, in Belgium, and even Alabama.
Now it waits in New England while I say grace over
almost everything: for a possum dead on someone’s lawn,
the single light on a levee while Northampton sleeps,
and because the lanes between houses in Greek hamlets
are exactly the width of a donkey loaded on each side
with barley. Loneliness is the mother’s milk of America.
The heart is a foreign country whose language none
of us is good at. Winter lingers on in the woods,
but already it looks discarded as the birds return
and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power
or size of December. For nine years in me it has waited.
My life is pleasant, as usual. My body is a blessing
and my spirit clear. But the waiting does not let up.
A book is a book, you said.//I take that for granted sometimes. Perhaps/you were right to press its mouth to the table.
“I walk and walk with cold hands.Back at the house it is filled with longing, nothing to carry longing away.I look back over my life.I try to find analogies.There are none.I have longed for people before,I have loved people before.Not like this. It was not this.Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.”
— Anne Carson, “Tag”
in the pinewoods,
in the five a.m. mist,
in a silky agitation,
down into the shadows
of the bog
across the bog
and up the hill
and into the dense trees—
in some kind of rapturous mistake,
the deer did not run away
but walked toward me
and touched my hands—
and I have been, ever since,
separated from my old, comfortable life
of experience and deduction—
I have been, ever since,
and even now,
though I am estranged from the world,
I would not go back—
I would not be anywhere else
but stalled in the happiness
of the miracle—
I stroll out into the fields,
I believe in everything,
I believe in anything,
even if the deer are wild again
I am still standing under the dark trees,
they are still walking toward me.
––Mary Oliver (via entropy-entropy)