02 April 2009

National Poetry Month

The second poem in our National Poetry Month series is from a new Selected Poems by the British Columbia writer Robert Bringhurst. The first sheets of this book have just made it onto the printing press, so it will be a couple of weeks yet before it’s in circulation. We have, however, just released a new edition reprint of his polyphonic masque Ursa Major.
— AS

Robert Bringhurst

I keep a crooked wooden bowl
half full of birdseed in the garden,
where the siskins and the finches,
crossbills, cowbirds, chickadees
and red-winged blackbirds meet.

Each day among the finches
there is one – a female house finch,
Carpodacus mexicanus, I believe –
who must have tangled with a predator,
or maybe with a truck.

Not one among the others acts
concerned. No one seems, in fact,
to notice the black cavity that once
was her right eye, the shattered
stump that used to be her upper beak.

And no one gawks or whispers
at the awkward sidewise motion
that enables her to eat. And no one
mocks, crunching a sunflower seed,
her preference for millet.

Where ostracism, charity or pity
might have been, there is reality
instead. I mean that their superlative
indifference is a kind of moral
beauty, as perfect as the day.

If the red-tailed hawk comes by,
or the neighbor’s cat, they mention
that to one another and are gone.
They also say hello; they say I am;
they say We are; they say Let’s finch

and make more finches. But I never
hear them talk of one another.
They speak of what they are, not who
they do or do not wish to be.
That is a form of moral beauty

too, as perfect as the day. Which is
to say they sing. By nothing
more than being there and being
what they are, they sing.
They sing. And that is that.

Copyright © Robert Bringhurst, 2009.

Robert Bringhurst with typographer Glenn Goluska

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