Ann Arbor Review
INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
BIRDHOUSE BABY, I THINK MAYBE
Sparrow in her mouth, my Siamese
who catches by instinct,
but was never taught to kill,
shows off what she caught
in tangled vines, I pry open
Cat's holding jaws. Sparrow
drops, does not move, eyes glass.
I prod her with soft blades of grass.
She lies still, a small feathered weight.
I cannot wait, carry Cat to the house.
From a distance, Sparrow could be
a brown curled leaf, a mushroom.
I put on gloves, hurry back, lift
the warm heart. A baby, maybe,
a beginning begun, and 'til now,
unsung. Sparrow still still.
Picture a brave hatchling on a risky
test flight, a feathered Amelia who lands
in bedeviling vines, catches her tiny feet,
but hand on! She is and isn't hanging on.
Feet kick, kick, and it seems
Cat was unwitting rescuer,
saved Sparrow from fatal entanglement.
Sparrow, unflappable, flaps away.
We can't know who might rescue us
when death grabs our soles,
can't know if we'll be urged to kick,
lift stilled wings, fly like Sparrow
away from both temptation's tangles
and the heaven opening atop the tree.
Can't know who will sing, "If you try,
baby, baby, I think maybe, maybe...."
My brother John heard on NPR that Darwin,
when asked if he thought we could ever not die,
said, "No, because then there would be no life."
John sweeps behind Mom,
who is in the last phase of her life,
sweeps the origins she has dropped
since he became her caretaker three years ago,
sweeps the philosophical dust
that humans have evolved beyond selfishness
for the good of the group.
John sweeps Mom's evolution
to the hospital, the rehab center,
where she tears headlines from the newspaper,
reads aloud "Darwin's 200th birthday,"
shuffles live words, eats "natural selection."
John focuses on her hair.
It is out of control, just as he is out of control.
He, who has always lived alone,
eaten oatmeal at exactly 7:30 a.m.,
shopped at Kroger's at exactly 9:30 a.m.,
put chicken in a 325 degree oven
each Saturday at exactly 3:45 p.m.
He wants to cut out these new clumps of chaos,
wisps of errant desires,
sweep her shorn hair back to his tidy house.
Static hair walks upright on the kitchen floor,
clings to his hands.
John hears someone sweeping, asks himself,
"Did I lock every door?
Did I let someone in?"
It is exactly 3:45 p.m. on a Saturday.
Chickens roost on the cold stove.
His mother's hands have wound down the hours,
swept his secrets into an offering.
He is a child in his mother's kitchen,
she is plucking a freshly killed hen.
He weeps, sweeps her discarded feathers,
remembers Darwin saying to survive
a species must adapt to a changing world.
Chris Lord, Ann Arbor
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