The Fey Child
We open our fists after you leave.
You may still be there
in the little darkness we keep and let go.
The shadow will not fly out,
but cock its head,
a dream that has forgotten to take wing out of the brain.
We will stroke its neck feathers
lull it drowsy,
cup it in stillness
like a fascination which if we raise too slowly toward us
flickers and vanishes.
You left before we could let you
through our fingers,
let you slide off their tips like a handshake.
At least there would have been a hollow
where some heat had been,
a quiet regret lingering in our open fists,
a nest of shadows,
an amazement to lift close to our faces.
Knowing you had gone
we wish we had kept watch over your going
As one looks for a dark insignificance in the leaves
the instant a species is extinct.
The Messiah’s been and gone.
We nagged you
fussed over you like those good secretaries,
Only we knew your worth,
touched your elbow, tapped your shoulder, gave you anything,
so our hands might graze yours in the giving.
We knew better than to trap it
Hold your hand
in the shadows of our palms like a small, rare bird,
kept hidden and ours.
It would be like clutching a deep violet,
keeping its darkness in ours.
It was enough to have its slight coolness on our fingers.
Our hands felt clean
and important. We carried the color in our minds, all day
like a decision
we were proud of, we would act on soon.
Yes, we did hunger to have you in our grip for good,
a bright activity we would smear on all
our fingers brushed — to mix our dull, earth colors into you,
begin the long domestication
of a brilliant yellow or tangerine, the slow, kind love
that kills a dear thing, a fondness
for a beauty we tolerate only if we have it in our houses,
in our hands.
Our fingers are open. You are gone
just as suddenly
as the darkness inside them.
Today I bring guilt in on my wrist. It is little
and fierce and picks at its feathers.
Hold the leash.
Feel it tug? — a black stone floating above you,
the wings’ dark suspense,
all that fury at your fingers’ ends.
In the narrow, windowed courtyard, this morning
a sparrow flew into the sky
on the glass — each attempt as innocent
as the flight before it —
this time the panes would soften into cloud.
Maybe I can frighten you into tenderness.
Look at the silent boys
and girls in the scarred footage —
how they bear their pain
moving under a doctor’s touch
A stunned assemblage of songbirds,
a cafeteria of wrens
so the hands can go anywhere.
We watch a huge hand pass over Hiroshima
and the people fall silent
As birds before a wind.
A monstrous, ancient hawk preening itself
before it plunges.
My dearest ones,
my ruffled students.
We will gather in the field
at our own shared distances like birds
brought down by a strong wind.
We will bear,
the grey, threatening weather of its wings.