Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another beautiful poem by Kelli

I have to add one more Kelli poem to my blog, a poem about death and birds. I've always wondered about the link between birds and death in our minds. Of course I understand the wings, the angels, death and so forth. But the beliefs are so strong. A few years ago when we were having our house worked on, I came home to find two burly carpenters outside, afraid to re-enter the house. Why? Because there was a bird inside. Evidently, they'd left the door open, and a robin had flown in. The poor robin was beating against the windows, trying to escape. The men warned me that death would soon follow the bird.

When Women Die, Waxwings Appear

By evening, the tips of their wings are dusty
from footsteps of men who don't know
what to do with themselves,

from children jumping rope
in an abandoned lot unaware
that anything has changed.

Waxwings appear in the madrona.
Someone has died and they try to carry sadness
to a bed of twigs, search for string and straw,
small branches to weave into edges.

By nightfall, the tips of their wings are arrows
for the men who don't know where to go,
for children looking for their way home.

At times, a bird will steal tissue from the hand
of a mourner, cover its nest to keep grief
from slipping back into families living below.

These days every limb contains a nest;
there are never enough wings to hold the men
who try to comfort their children who linger
with hope of finding a new home.

from Small Knots by Kelli Russell Agodon


ka said...


Yes, that same superstition runs in our family--a bird hitting the window. It's very much what inspired the poem.

Once my mum and I were at a poetry reading and a man stood up to read a poem about his father. He said how much he loved his dad, but his father was very very ill. In the split second after saying that and right before his poem, a bird hit the window behind him. My mum and I could hardly breathe from the intensity of the moment. The man didn't even flinch and went on with his poem.

Sometimes I think my family has superstitions to create its own legends. I mean, if someone didn't bring up death at the dinner table, what would we have to talk about? ;-)

Thanks for sharing this. I'm glad you liked it.


Penultimatina said...

I love Kelli poems!

She's on our syllabus this semester too. :)