He said I wrote about death,
and I didn’t mean to, this was not
my intent. I meant to say how I loved
the birds, how watching them lift off
the branches, hearing their song
helps me get through the gray morning.
When I wrote about how they crash
into the small dark places that only birds
can fit through, layers of night sky, pipes
through drains, how I’ve seen them splayed
across gutters, piles of feathers stuck
together by dried blood, how once my car
ran over a sparrow, though I swerved,
the road was narrow, the bird not quick
enough, dragged it under my tire as I drove
to forget, bird disappearing part by part,
beak, slender feet, fretful, hot,
I did not mean to write about death,
but rather how when something dies
we remember who we love, and we
die a little too, we who are still breathing,
we who still have the energy to survive.
Copyright © 2017 by Kim Dower. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
“My mentor and favorite poet, Thomas Lux, noted after reading my latest collection, ‘there’s a little more mortality creeping in, more darkness.’ I was surprised by this, and then that night I dreamed about running over a bird. When I awoke I thought, ‘he said I wrote about death,’ which became a prompt and title for this poem. I now dedicate this poem to him, the most generous and beloved teacher and friend the world has ever known.”