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Sutra of the Robin

June 30, 2009 by · 31 comments

George Fillingham

Photo: Sister72

            “ . . . y en un abrir los ojos nos morimos.”*
            Octavio Paz

I have raised robins, many thought abandoned. Many were.

I have raised them from what looked to be

A bundle of pin feathers and quills with bright wide beaks,

Or some naked but for hinted wings, bulged eyes.

All were hungry. I would buy bait worms, night crawlers.

I partly mash them with a knife blade, then I held the worm

Above the wobbly head until its hunger overcame its fear

And down the hatch: at least a dozen a day or more.

Distances between species, its and mine then disappeared.

The imprint took, and I became no more the shadow; I was

The light. I took it everywhere, to work, to eat. At home

It slept beside me. At work, I parked under a Bradford Pear.

The shade was cool. Before I took it in to work, I waited while

My robin listened to the other birds, the sparrows, other robins.

My robin loved the sunset from the egg, an instinct older than

The songs of birds. And after many bait boxes the speckled breast

Took on the ruddy, rusty, blood-of-Christ-at-Easter-ness, that red breast

Harbinger of spring, the cheeping wavers into something song like.

I recognize the time has come to let my robin go. I take my robin

To the park. I hold it on my open palm. It turns its head to look

At me, not bird to man, but child to father, eye to eye.

I see uncertainty, I feel anguish, a different fear of conscience.

My rescue grows distorted, my own compassion burns before my eyes.

I may have been mistaken. My robin is not ready for this or any world.

And yet it flies from my hand to perch high in a Sycamore,

Dark against a cloudy sky, a shadow in its element. I turn to leave.

But still I fear my child will not survive heaven or earth.

A week goes by. At work near where I always park I see

A robin lying dead. Is it my robin? I do not know.

I do not know. Robins all look alike to me.

*( . . . And in the flicker of an eye we die.) Trans. Muriel Rukeyser

Categories: Frontpage · poetry


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