"Hiking the restored prairie was more than lovely enough--
I could appreciate the good signage; got a chance to forget,
for a change, to respect fear. . . Where they happy in any
real way, whatever real is, those first," Carl Phillips begins his poem, Several Birds in Hand But the Rest Go Free.
I am the bird that came back to seeds in my father's hand. But I know they are not the original seeds. The university promotes acreage dividends to shaded out crop rows. Pollinator acres if you can stomach the paperwork. Farmers could be botanists. Ecologists. A better kind of the good neighbor each mows their ditch to be.
"pioneers? The happiest
people I know are those whose main strategy has
always been detachment. I’ve been working on that. Not so
long ago, for example, a sentence like ‘The skin where you
burned me last week with your cigarette has almost healed
completely’,” Phillips’ eyes hear what I cannot see.
"Burdocks come in bouquets, their flower the color of clover.
Sky blue inks beer cans," I muse as spring unfolds through barn slats.
". . . was so much harder to say. Progress. The way
bluestem, mallow, purple globes of clover, when said
together, make a kind of music, though they're nothing alike,
pale colors in a tall field-" Carl Phillips responds between the pages turned to a less than desired opportunity to recycle.
"No bridal wreath. No wild roses," Dad observes. "Failure to thrive, I suppose."
Or, the birds meant to carry their seeds did not return. But, perhaps they did return and could not find the seeds?
". . . all a prairie comes to. True pity,
as in deeply felt--I save mine, what's left of it, for
the wounded animals, the ones not yet dead. Already I don't
mean, anymore, the soft dark violent rustling wilderness
inside the bright one that I was before, when I saw wilderness." His pen put down, Phillips must have sighed.
“I suppose I should be grateful. No sun means no storms. When I was a kid it didn’t matter though. We’d climb on a tree knocked down, snapping branches like a felled monster’s fingers.” Dad closes the kitchen door. I don’t mention the birds’ nests that would have been tossed aside. When birds and seeds were sure things, rain had captured all attention. I order the book of poems, Wild is the Wind for Father’s Day.
Phillips, Carl. (2018). Wild is the Wind. Farrar Straus Giroux: New York.
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