“…if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come right …
and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
– Anne Frank
That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest, and
we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told us the
mother would know our hands and never take
it back. Spring that year was a cardboard box,
a bird cradled in cotton, cries for eyedropper
food – the wide mouth that became a beak,
feather-stalks stretched into wings. We knew,
of course, that we couldn’t keep it. (Later, we
would mark the spot with stones and twigs –
where the bird fell, where we let it go – and
sometimes, stopped in the middle of play,
would point and say, there, right there.)
The day we freed it, it beat, a heart-clock
(wound and sprung in Ruth Levine’s old hand)
that, finally, finding the sky, flew higher than
all the briars strung like metal barbs above the
backyard fence – a speck of updraft ash and
gone. Heaven, fuller then for one small bird,
spread its blue wing over us and the tree and
Mrs. Levine who, breathing deeply, raised
her numbered arm to the light and moved
her thumb over each fingertip as if she could
feel to the ends of her skin the miracle edge
of freedom, of feathers, of flight.
This poem won the 2007 Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award.
Previously published in the Merton Seasonal (Summer 2007).
Used here with the author’s permission.