Like the Swift Flight
I notice it first while standing outside
looking up at the garage loft’s window:
pure verb overwhelming the noun,
or panic, rather, obscuring its author,
until the action stops and, like a gemstone
sifted from silt, the bird, a cardinal,
emerges from the motion, perched
on the wrong side of the sill.
I suppose I could make this a metaphor
or something, for the soul, maybe,
as Bede does, but it’s really just a problem,
another life to prolong so its death
isn’t my responsibility. For two days
I keep the garage door open, but the bird
trusts only the light from the window
that won’t open, not the dull fluorescence
from below or the saucer of water
and the trail of seeds I leave on the steps.
On the third day, wearing a hockey helmet
and gardening gloves, I face an old fear
and climb those steps to tape cardboard
over the window. Hunched over,
as if fending off an explosion,
I think of last summer’s jays dive-
bombing my dog’s skull, then the bat
that bit my brother in our childhood basement.
But the bird doesn’t attack, just watches
from the rafters, as I watch for hours
from our porch for the escape
I never see for sure. Here, success for once
dictated by what’s lost. I push through
our boxes of junk, the stuff we discard
but can’t throw out completely, and find
nothing to describe, just the sudden light
from the windows when the cardboard comes off,
and then the tiny marks left by something—
I suppose the evidence is there—I cared for.
Copyright © 2018 James Davis May. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.
James Davis May
James Davis May is the author of Unquiet Things (Goat Island Poetry, 2016). He is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Young Harris College, and lives in northeast Georgia.
Date Published: 2019-03-07
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/swift-flight