Ars Poetica (Excerpt from “Telling the Gospel Truth”)

The next time a student asks
      how to become a writer, I will say:
          Sit in a white room
                        without paper
                  and think of the poacher
                                  who shot the wing off the bald eagle.
                                Who must have seen
                                                          he wrecked his trophy
                        and, disgusted,
            did not offer it
                                                  a second bullet
                                            but thrashed off deeper into the forest
  wearing his expensive
                  forest-colored clothes.

Then            think of the man from the wild bird sanctuary
                                                      who found the eagle,
                                                        sutured its ragged wingstub,
                                                          fed the awkward hopping thing
                                                                                      for years.
                                          And, before it died, harnessed it
                                                  in a hang glider and took it to the mountain
so one last time
              its hollow bones could float,
so one last time
its eyes could scour the forest floor from hunter’s height,
so one last time
                  its talons could tear the gauzy cloak of sky,
                                        flying in the face
                                                                  of God,
that one last time.

                      Think of the poacher, think of the birder.
shortening the intervals.
Don’t forget to breathe.

When you can hold both of these men
in the palm of your mind
                                  at the same time—
                                                                      come find me
                                                                                  and teach me.

Published in Tender Hooks (W. W. Norton, New York, 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Beth Ann Fennelly. Used with the permission of the author.