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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Summer of the Damaged Swallow

I remember -
I was little, back then, in the summer
of the damaged swallow,
no more than a reaching child
playing in the red-yellow
paste dirt; the thin soil of sunset
bleeding into the wild --
                  it was the sound that first caught me,
a chirpy hiccup-!
then its feet tagged at my neck
swooping low,
as though something had dragged
it out of the sky; I looked up
as it fell down hurt;
                  and for the longest moment
we stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

I remember -
a bigger boy, back then, so much older,
running over before I could go,
stabbing at the fallen swallow
with a stick as though
sticking pins in a voodoo doll,
I wanted to stop it --
                  though his smile was fed
with a religious guilt
that hits the weak then repents,
his hands were fate; and fate a scythe
placed in his hands
to cut, or to reap
what had been sown out of the sky;
                  and for the longest moment
we stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

I remember -
trembling, walking to take my stand over
the injured swallow,
preparing to make war with the boy
and myself the casualty,
rather than allow him to toy
with the remnants of cut down dignity --
                  it was the sound that had caught me,
a chirpy hiccup-!
as the boy dragged the swallow
through the dirt,
something so low inside me
hurt as though I had been dragged
out of the sky; I looked up at him
too frightened to speak;
                  and for the longest moment
we stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

I remember -
much older than both of us, my brother
coming between us, and gently
taking the swallow in his palm;
he stroked its breast,
and shook his head at me,
and the bird was strangely calm --
                  though his mercy was bred
from a religious deliverance
that suffers the weak,
his hands were fate; and fate a scythe
placed in his hands
to cut, or to reap
what had been sown out of the sky;
                  and for the longest moment
we stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

I remember -
my brother sadly walking to the river,
holding the damaged swallow
under the water until he felt it die;
he silenced its breast,
and I cried and cried,
for the freedom lost --
                  like the fluttering
of one good wing in the palm of your hand --
where hope resists with the smallest protest
even at the better end,
then the water goes red
and quiet, like a war is over
and the world is dead;
                  and for the longest moment
we stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

I remember -
I was little, back then, in the summer
of the damaged swallow,
am little still in this poem I write now;
where I failed to understand
the poetry of these low places
that brim with the hurt --
                  where there'd be one less bird
in the summer filled sky --
and I returned to my patch
of sunset coloured dirt,
crying for the truth of this world:
how life slides over out of respect
for something far more superior;
                  and for the longest moment
we had stared at each other;
sizing each other up and down
as though weighing our air.

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