The elder Deena Metzger sent us into the almost silent woods around the retreat center to find a way to connect, to make an offering to the natural world. I wandered out into the edge of the woods, struggling with sore shoulders, and just laid down in a pile of leaves and fell asleep reflecting on all that has been lost due to unconscious environmental destruction. This poem came upon my awakening.
I awaken from my bed of leaves and see you there, so still, in the sun.
Oh, red bird, you sit so close on the limb of that old twisted tree.
. I don’t remember your name, or the name of the tree you perch upon.
I’m tempering my voice with silence here so I might disappear into the heart of this grove, this grave,
. where you survive the many who are lost.
I’m changing my mind here, so I can really know your being, discovering your true nature and mine.
When men of my species named you, did they really listen to your song?
Did their countless sounds send you away? Did they steal the airspace from you? Suck the breath out of your tiny lungs? When they said “cardinal” did some small death come to those of your kind?
All my life, I’ve dreamed of flying.
Did I steal your red wings in the night?
Did my envy of your flight cause me to murder you one by one with my airplanes?
Did I poison the air so that you fall from the most beautiful grace I can even imagine?
Who are you, really?
. I kneel down to touch the bright eggs in your nest with my deadly curiosity.
Dear tiny egg,
Did your mother abandon you here— feral, fetal, folded within the crypt of your cold bright shell?
Perhaps the men who named you, catalogued and desecrated you long ago had lost their Mother, too.
In shame, and fear men try to crawl back into the wombs of women, to hide inside our hollow shells, and yet, we too, are broken and have forgotten our true names, our wild congruent natures.
Tears glisten on our faces as we pray to hear your song again–
. the birthing song of the new earth, the sonic map to the next world.
Little red bird, you are puzzled by my stillness after all these centuries.
No fear lies in the space between us..
I offer now my wholehearted listening
I offer myself, belly down on this mossy earth, prostrate before the nameless tree
I offer my silent breath to clear the air
I offer these frozen shoulders,
. these painful inflamed stumps as penance for my theft of your winged glories.
I offer my ego and all those of my species who have come before as humus for you to rebuild your nests.
Little bird, little lava red bird
May you hear my true song in my small death
— April 28, 2013 Chigger Ridge Retreat Center Pegram, Tennessee
Diana (MorningStar) Ault, is a longtime community organizer, activist and artist whose purpose is building a global mutual support network of community artists as a soulforce for a better world. She’s the founder of MorningStar Community Arts House, hosting people from over 82 countries, linking arts and social transformation, writing, performing and producing hundreds of community circle gatherings and house concerts in Nashville, TN. She’s gathering a book of poetry and essays across 30 years called Radical Hospitality: Grief, Grace and Grits. This poem was included in a CD project “Domestic Disguises” with the Line Breaks Poetry Collective. She’s mother of 2, grandmother of 3, and is seeking in her 60th year, the inner stillness where the language and the songs come from. 615-594-4410, www.MorningstarArts.net, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Credit: By W.L. McAtee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons