The Bird on My Railing

Jorie Graham

From
                                 the still wet iron of
                                 my fire
                                 escape’s top
railing a truth is making this instant on our clock
                                 open with a taut
                                 unchirping un-
                                 breaking note – a perfectly
                                 released vowel travelling
the high branches across the way, between us and the
                                 others, in their
                                 apartments, and fog
lifting for sun before evaporation
                                 begins. Someone
                                 is born
                                 somewhere
                                 now. The
                                 planet
                                 suspends
                                 like a streetlight
                                 at night
                                 in the quiet
                                 galaxy.
                                 Endurance
continues to be the secret of the tilled
                                 ground we make
                                 breath by breath. What
                                 seed dear
                                 lord are we we
think as we toss more of our living out
                                 into the turning and turning,
                                 our personal
dead cast always deeper into
                                 the general dead
                                 no matter how hard you try
                                 to keep your
                                 own your
known own – and gnarled remembering mossing over –
                                 the tenderness a characteristic trait
                                 elicits, the very thing you
                                 hated, rising to make
                                 you almost unable to
                                 speak –
– where are you? – the fields beyond the housing tract
                                 still accepting the rain
                                 as these asphalted ones we’ve
                                 sealed
cannot – so yes, look close, this right word on my railing
                                 who knows no hate
                                 no love
                                 you can count on it,
no wrenching strangling guilt, no wish so terrible
                                 one had said
                                 otherwise just once in
                                 time –
between one life and another what is it that
                                 can really
                                 exist – oh
                                 nothing says this
awakeness – and look, you
                                 who might not believe this because
you are not seeing it with your own
                                 eyes: look:
                                 this light
                                 is moving
                                 across that flower on
                                 my sill
                                 at this exact
speed – right now – right here – now it is gone – yet go back up
                                 five lines it is
                                 still there I can’t
                                 go back, it’s
                                 gone,
                                 but you –
what is it you are
                                 seeing – see it again – a yellow
                                 daisy, the sun
                                 strafing the petals once
across, and the yellow, which could be a god why not,
                                 pulling itself up
                                 out of
shadow – so
                                 silent –
                                 and the patch of sunlight
                                 moves – and each word said in
                                 time after this is
                                 the subtraction we call
life-lived – this gold its centre – and beyond it, still on
                                 the rail, this
                                 bird, a
                                 secret gift to
                                 me by the
                                 visible –
of which few in a life are
                                 given – and how
                                 when it opens its
                                 yellow beak in the glint-sun to
                                 let out song, it
lets out the note on a plume of
                                 steam,
                                 lets out the
                                 visible heat of its
                                 inwardness
carrying a note – a note in
                                 a mist – a note-
                                 breath, breath-
                                 note – oh
cold spring – the white
                                 plume the size of a
                                 bird rises up with its own
                                 tail,
                                 feathering-out in
the directions,
                                 carrying the next and the next-on
                                 note, until the whole
                                 shape of the
                                 song is wisped-
                                 up and
suddenly
                                 it shuts, the source
                                 shuts, the form
                                 complete, the breath-bird
                                 free to
                                 rise away into the young day and
not be –