[from Brooks Haxton's They Lift Their Wings to Cry, Alfred A. Knopf, 2008]
to Roger Fanning in memory of Tom Andrews and Agha Shahid Ali
A mouse, let's say white-footed,
spooked by headlights, dashed
from under the shoulder grass, owl
stooped, and here beside the road:
owl pie -- a body sacred once
to worshippers of wisdom and dark fate,
now mashed into a feathered plaque
with only wings and talons left intact.
My brain beside the road,
unlike the owl brain eaten by a crow,
felt sun burst into the forward ports,
intense as headlights bearing down . . .
to think: the mouse the car set free
might well have been the species
people train to sing
for ears of wheat. And friends of ours
who taught with us by that same road,
though dead, may train us yet
to sing for them, to say, by reading
from their poems, how beautiful
Kashmir and West Virginia are
without them. Screech-owl pie, wings
spread with talons underneath, contains
no more an owl than shut books do
friends. And as for us who happen by,
who hunker at the guardrail: listen.
Year-round after nightfall
the white-footed mice are singing.
They Lift Their Wings to Cry