Part II Setting the V.C.R. when we go to bed to record a night owl movie, some charmer we missed we always allow, for unprogrammed unforeseen, an extra half hour. (Night gods of the small screen are ruthless with watchers trapped in their piety.) We watch next evening, and having slowly found the start of the film, meet the minors and leads, enter their time and place, their wills and needs, hear in our chests the click of empathy's padlock, watch the forces gather, unyielding world against the unyielding heart, one longing's minefield laid for another longing, which may yield. Tears will salt the left-over salad I seize during ads, or laughter slow my hurry to pee. But as clot melts toward clearness a black fate may fall on the screen; the movie started too late. Torn from the backward-shining of an end that lights up the meaning of the whole work, disabled in mind and feeling, I flail and shout, "I can't bear it! I have to see how it comes out!" For what is story if not relief from the pain of the inconclusive, from dread of the meaningless? Minds in their silent blast-offs search through space-- how often I've followed yours!--for a resting-place. And I'll follow, past each universe in its spangled ballgown who waits for the slow-dance of life to start, past vacancies of darkness whose vainglory is endless as death's, to find the end of the story.
Mona Van Duyn - 1921-2004
Letters from a Father
Ulcerated tooth keeps me awake, there is such pain, would have to go to the hospital to have it pulled or would bleed to death from the blood thinners, but can't leave Mother, she falls and forgets her salve and her tranquilizers, her ankles swell so and her bowels are so bad, she almost had a stoppage and sometimes what she passes is green as grass. There are big holes in my thigh where my leg brace buckles the size of dimes. My head pounds from the high pressure. It is awful not to be able to get out, and I fell in the bathroom and the girl could hardly get me up at all. Sure thought my back was broken, it will be next time. Prostate is bad and heart has given out, feel bloated after supper. Have made my peace because am just plain done for and have no doubt that the Lord will come any day with my release. You say you enjoy your feeder, I don't see why you want to spend good money on grain for birds and you say you have a hundred sparrows, I'd buy poison and get rid of their diseases and turds.
We enjoyed your visit, it was nice of you to bring the feeder but a terrible waste of your money for that big bag of feed since we won't be living more than a few weeks long. We can see them good from where we sit, big ones and little ones but you know when I farmed I used to like to hunt and we had many a good meal from pigeons and quail and pheasant but these birds won't be good for nothing and are dirty to have so near the house. Mother likes the redbirds though. My bad knee is so sore and I can't hardly hear and Mother says she is hoarse from yelling but I know it's too late for a hearing aid. I belch up all the time and have a sour mouth and of course with my heart it's no use to go to a doctor. Mother is the same. Has a scab she thinks is going to turn to a wart.
The birds are eating and fighting, Ha! Ha! All shapes and colors and sizes coming out of our woods but we don't know what they are. Your Mother hopes you can send us a kind of book that tells about birds. There is one the folks called snowbirds, they eat on the ground, we had the girl sprinkle extra there, but say, they eat something awful. I sent the girl to town to buy some more feed, she had to go anyway.
Almost called you on the telephone but it costs so much to call thought better write. Say, the funniest thing is happening, one day we had so many birds and they fight and get excited at their feed you know and it's really something to watch and two or three flew right at us and crashed into our window and bang, poor little things knocked themselves silly. They come to after while on the ground and flew away. And they been doing that. We felt awful and didn't know what to do but the other day a lady from our Church drove out to call and a little bird knocked itself out while she sat and she bought it in her hands right into the house, it looked like dead. It had a kind of hat of feathers sticking up on its head, kind of rose or pinky color, don't know what it was, and I petted it and it come to life right there in her hands and she took it out and it flew. She says they think the window is the sky on a fair day, she feeds birds too but hasn't got so many. She says to hang strips of aluminum foil in the window so we'll do that. She raved about our birds. P.S. The book just come in the mail.
Say, that book is sure good, I study in it every day and enjoy our birds. Some of them I can't identify for sure, I guess they're females, the Latin words I just skip over. Bet you'd never guess the sparrow I've got here, House Sparrow you wrote, but I have Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Pine Woods and Tree and Chipping and White Throat and White Crowned Sparrows. I have six Cardinals, three pairs, they come at early morning and night, the males at the feeder and on the ground the females. Juncos, maybe 25, they fight for the ground, that's what they used to call snowbirds. I miss the Bluebirds since the weather warmed. Their breast is the color of a good ripe muskmelon. Tufted Titmouse is sort of blue with a little tiny crest. And I have Flicker and Red-Bellied and Red- Headed Woodpeckers, you would die laughing to see Red-Bellied, he hangs on with his head flat on the board, his tail braced up under, wing out. And Dickcissel and Ruby Crowned Kinglet and Nuthatch stands on his head and Veery on top the color of a bird dog and Hermit Thrush with spot on breast, Blue Jay so funny, he will hop right on the backs of the other birds to get the grain. We bought some sunflower seeds just for him. And Purple Finch I bet you never seen, color of a watermelon, sits on the rim of the feeder with his streaky wife, and the squirrels, you know, they are cute too, they sit tall and eat with their little hands, they eat bucketfuls. I pulled my own tooth, it didn't bleed at all.
It's sure a surprise how well Mother is doing, she forgets her laxative but bowels move fine. Now that windows are open she says our birds sing all day. The girl took a Book of Knowledge on loan from the library and I am reading up on the habits of birds, did you know some males have three wives, some migrate some don't. I am going to keep feeding all spring, maybe summer, you can see they expect it. Will need thistle seed for Goldfinch and Pine Siskin next winter. Some folks are going to come see us from Church, some bird watchers, pretty soon. They have birds in town but nothing to equal this. So the world woos its children back for an evening kiss.