The Fey Child
We open our fists after you leave. You may still be there in the little darkness we keep and let go. The shadow will not fly out, but cock its head, a dream that has forgotten to take wing out of the brain. We will stroke its neck feathers lull it drowsy, cup it in stillness like a fascination which if we raise too slowly toward us flickers and vanishes. You left before we could let you through our fingers, let you slide off their tips like a handshake. At least there would have been a hollow where some heat had been, a quiet regret lingering in our open fists, a nest of shadows, an amazement to lift close to our faces. Knowing you had gone we wish we had kept watch over your going As one looks for a dark insignificance in the leaves the instant a species is extinct. The Messiah’s been and gone. We nagged you fussed over you like those good secretaries, the apostles. Only we knew your worth, touched your elbow, tapped your shoulder, gave you anything, water, bread, so our hands might graze yours in the giving. We knew better than to trap it Hold your hand in the shadows of our palms like a small, rare bird, kept hidden and ours. It would be like clutching a deep violet, keeping its darkness in ours. It was enough to have its slight coolness on our fingers. Our hands felt clean and important. We carried the color in our minds, all day like a decision we were proud of, we would act on soon. Yes, we did hunger to have you in our grip for good, a silver, a bright activity we would smear on all our fingers brushed — to mix our dull, earth colors into you, begin the long domestication of a brilliant yellow or tangerine, the slow, kind love that kills a dear thing, a fondness for a beauty we tolerate only if we have it in our houses, in our hands. Our fingers are open. You are gone just as suddenly as the darkness inside them.
Today I bring guilt in on my wrist. It is little and fierce and picks at its feathers. Hold the leash. Feel it tug? — a black stone floating above you, the wings’ dark suspense, all that fury at your fingers’ ends. In the narrow, windowed courtyard, this morning a sparrow flew into the sky on the glass — each attempt as innocent and forgiving as the flight before it — this time the panes would soften into cloud. Maybe I can frighten you into tenderness. Look at the silent boys and girls in the scarred footage — how they bear their pain moving under a doctor’s touch like birds A stunned assemblage of songbirds, a cafeteria of wrens throats stroked so the hands can go anywhere. We watch a huge hand pass over Hiroshima and the people fall silent As birds before a wind. Horror. A monstrous, ancient hawk preening itself before it plunges. My dearest ones, my ruffled students. We will gather in the field at our own shared distances like birds brought down by a strong wind. We will bear, together, the grey, threatening weather of its wings.