Voices: I Need a Place to Go in My Own Direction

by Bert Stern

April 10, 2008

I Need a Place to Go in My Own Direction

Snow devils like dervishes dance across stubble,
and the wind bends scattered gold grasses
fragile as angels against onsets of deeper cold.

In April, Persephone spills in hordes dumb buds
that cannot know their flower or the deaths they’ve lived,
as even we can’t know, in our own sad generations.

At home, I hear the quick click of a young girl’s heels
dancing up the block. Her head bowed into the wind,
she is ripening into sorrow.

The not-knowing of flower and girl and leaves
is nakedness within the real, where words
can’t go, where words go only by subtraction,
as if, should I stop saying feathers,
my window sparrow would show them.

So I subtract from the day the pathos
of naked branches clutching their last few leaves,
and of the milky muted sky. I erase the shy
"I am" a sparrow sings against the great day,
sings with no expectation.

This world’s so solid I can’t touch it.
Outside my window, the sparrow speaks anyhow,
and pecks at winter buds,
satisfied with the good that’s given,
at home in its skin.
Then the sparrow vanishes
as if it were nothing.

Bert Stern is Milligan Professor Emeritus of English and lives in Somerville, MA.


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