While Waiting

I sit and wait to feel astonishment land in my hand like a bird

While Waiting

I sit
and wait
to feel astonishment land
in my hand like a bird
before writing
before having
something to tell

A beetle walks out from under my chair
with the purposeful, bowlegged
stride of a plumber
carrying his heavy tools
and turns into the shady lane
made by two stacks of boards

How does he decide where to go?
Does he have a home? Does he have
friends? Does he know where
his brothers and sisters live?
Or maybe everywhere they are
is home

I am not sure the astonishment
has landed yet. . . It is nearby
like all the other birds,
exclaiming in the scrubby trees
on the rocky hillside rising
right behind me

Some have voices like tiny violins
played by a bow with a single horse hair,
pizzicato. One is the penny-whistle
of a daydreaming shepherd
One sounds like a miniature motorcycle
that a squirrel, perhaps, is trying
to start over and over

Now, all are silent except one bird
who is chuckling with a secret

Over the patio wall comes flapping
the raucous chatter of two women
I can't see, their voices tickling the shirts
as they flutter upside down on the line

Silence again

And then, note by note, a melody –
a tender question being composed
by a solitary, jazz-loving bird

A small white butterfly appears,
weaving like a drunk between the jeans
and shirts stretched across the dance floor                                                                           of the sky

I watch the dance,
listen to the music,
sitting alone, feeling stood-up –
and notice waves of heat
above my cheekbones,
then, as if embarrassed,
they retreat

I ask myself what I want
from this poem, and am ashamed
to pollute witnessing with wanting
I think of people posing their children for photographs
The children must feel this is how I'm supposed
to show Mommy and Daddy I love them:
Give them the picture they want

But honestly, I don't want anything from this

Like a slap on a horse's haunches those words                                                                send my heart into a gallop, throwing me off,
its pounding hooves kicking up water
as it tears across the stream that runs above my cheeks
and startles the shepherd with his penny whistle,
the squirrel on his motorcycle, the violinist,
and the beetle with his tools

We are all just here together, being in our nature
the fiddlehead fern next to me is saying,
with its frond-tips curled like babies' fists –
But how can you lure the bird of astonishment
to your hand if you keep moving it?

I need to write, I say, about air, how it's invisible,
yet it is also blue, and how it holds all of this,
all of these moving parts in its breast and how – somehow –
it breathes for me like a mother bird dropping morsels
of food into my mouth, invisible food, without me
doing anything,
just because
she wants me
to live

Shhhh – there they are –
moving on the hill above my cheeks,
not birds after all, but shy, tiny creatures
silent and invisible, except for the way
they catch the light as they slide down the hill –
drops of liquid astonishment