To Be Alive
Two dead birds in two spring days,
sleek feather balls like dream symbols,
a damaged sparrow on my doorstep
presented by Midnight the half-stray
and a perfect cedar waxwing
in the middle of the pavement
lying dead of poisoned berries.
I discarded their bodies
as if removal from foot traffic
could honor pain and shortened lives.
Am I asleep and dreaming, or not?
When it began to rain I met
my neighbor Dan who told me
his fourth friend in as many months
died of an overdose or drink.
Open coffins then, sleep’s images.
What does it mean to be alive
in this leafy world where song birds
are flying through Memorial Day?
My heart is steadily beating.
“So sorry for your loss,” I say.
Our window holds the river
while the ripples float downstream,
wild with seagulls, while the glass
holds our image in a foggy mirage.
We free two foolish paper planes,
a pair of gulls above the water,
half watching as their flight sets down,
for nothing really matters when it ends.
Through the window I can trace
spirals of gulls that rise
skywards, vanishing like ripples,
becoming scavengers of our time.
Cleaving through their feathering,
our image vanishes and I can
hardly watch such messages disappear,
though nothing really matters when it ends.
I wonder why we had to leave,
unmooring like two boats mid-stream.
Even gulls set sail without a reason,
free birds on their own journeys,
yet floating heavy on my mind,
winged things that must at last alight.
Nothing descends without a gravity,
and nothing really matters when it ends.
Judith Werner lives in the Bronx, New York, and has had poems published in many literary magazines and several anthologies. A book of her formal poems, “What Moves the Sun,” was published in 2017 by KelsayBooks, Aldritch Press. An on-line selection of her work can be found at www.broadsidedpress.org and www.thehypertexts.com.