I noticed the mockingbirds first,
not for their call but the broad white bands,
like reverse mourning bands on gunmetal
gray, exposed during flight
then tucked into their chests. A thing
seen once, then everywhere—
the top of the gazebo, the little cracked statue,
along the barbed fence. Noticed because
I know first with my eyes, then followed
their several songs braiding the trees.
Only later, this other, same-same-again song,
a bird I could not see but heard
when I walked from the house to the studio,
studio to the house, its three notes
repeated like a child’s up and down
on a trampoline looping
the ground to the sky—
When I remember being a child like this
I think I wouldn’t mind living alone
on a mountain, stilled into the daily
which isn’t stillness at all but a whirring
gone deep. The composer shows how
the hands, palms down, thumb to thumb
and forefinger to mirrored finger, make
a shape like a cone, a honeybee hive, and then
how that cone moves across the piano—
notes in groups fluttering fast back-and-forth
and it sounds difficult but it isn’t
really, how the hand likes to hover each patch
of sound. Likes gesture. To hold. Listening
is like this. How it took me a week to hear
the ever-there wren. And the bees
are like this, intent on their nectar,
their waggle dance better than any GPS.
A threatened thing. A no-one-knows-why.
But the wrens’ invisible looping their loop—
And I, for a moment, pinned to the ground.
Pinned and spinning in the sound of it.
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Donnelly. Used with permission of the author.
Looking out of the front page, a wild-haired,
gentle-eyed young German man stands
before a blackboard of incomprehensible equations.
Meanwhile, back in the quotidian,
Carver takes the school to the poor.
;He outfits an open truck
with shelves for his jars
of canned fruit and compost,
bins for his croker sacks of seeds.
He travels roads barely discernible
on the county map,
teaching former field-slaves
how to weave ditch weeds
into pretty table place mats,
how to keep their sweet potatoes from rotting
before winter hunger sets in,
how to make preacher-pleasing
mock fried chicken
without slaughtering a laying hen.
He notes patches of wild chicory
the farmers could collect
to free themselves from their taste
for high-priced imported caffeine.
He and his student assistants bump along
shoulder to shoulder in the high cab,
a braided scale of laughter
trailing above their raised dust.
Today, Carver is explaining,
as far as he understands it,
that fellow Einstein’s “Special Theory of Relativity.”
He’s hardly gotten to Newtonian Space
when a platoon of skinny dogs
announces the next farm.
As they pull up,
a black man and his boy straighten,
two rows of shin-high cotton apart.
With identical gestures they remove
straw hats, wipe their foreheads with their sleeves.
Their welcoming glance meets Carver’s eyes
at the velocity of light.
From Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson. Copyright © 2001 by Marilyn Nelson. Published by Boyds Mills Press, Inc. Used by permission.
you who once ached
with your own growing larger
absorbed by your own
When I danced,
When you broke,
And so it was lying down,
climbing the tiring stairs.
Your jaws. My bread.
what is left of you,
will be flensed of this marriage.
Angular wristbone's arthritis,
cracked harp of ribcage,
blunt of heel,
opened bowl of the skull,
twin platters of pelvis—
each of you will leave me behind,
at last serene.
What did I know of your days,
I who held you all my life
inside my hands
and thought they were empty?
You who held me all my life
inside your hands
as a new mother holds
her own unblanketed child,
not thinking at all.
Copyright © 2013 by Jane Hirshfield. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2013.