by Marianne Boruch


February is crystalline. Inside these days, everything turns ice and shatters. No wonder a sparrow misses his leg, or doesn’t, the poet only imagines. “That sparrow on the trash again,”(emphasis mine) the story goes, welcome old friend, and the watcher from the window again, we also now envision. There is a sight that propels the observer into the observed, and there are moments, reading this poem aloud, where you stumble forward like a small bird landing on one leg or taking off again. No wonder the poet enjambs each line as ragged and precise as Robert Creeley:  a bird who cannot perch calls the sky exhaustion. When we look so intently into the sky, we return to see the sky inside ourselves. In turn:

            . . . feathers
puffed out — swollen thing, ridiculous —
for warmth. All the lives I
might have had: this one,
oh, this one.

Every turn is an act of inward expansion. Especially here, what first seems a simple switch in perspective instead implodes into quasar. So many lives I might also inhabit, the light turned on illuminates. This about-face arrives so suddenly, for a second, the mind asks, who am “I”? Is the turn the perceiver awakening inside the perceived? Or the perceiver awakened by what is perceived? I think the answer is yes, and yes. But notice, the poet doesn’t suggest she revise her life á la Rilke,  or consider anything wasted as James Wright might. The poem simply unfolds in the last three lines, every possible ending blooming from “this one, / oh, this one.” The singular repeated, exalted, a prayer. What’s uncovered, turned over into light.



Brent Goodman is a poet and writer living in northern Wisconsin. His latest book, Far From Sudden (2012), is now available from Black Lawrence Press. His debut collection, The Brother Swimming Beneath Me (2009), was a finalist for both a Thom Gunn Award and a Lambda Literary Award.  Brent is an assistant editor for the online journal Anti- and an instructor with the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions.