Being Born Human

Response to Birdsong, from the Terezin Concentration Camp

If the tears obscure your way,
try to open up your heart to beauty. 
Weave a wreath of memories.

The blind man listening in the woods 
sees as much as the sighted man, 
knows what the birds know
and where (in the world) he stands.

He cannot see the yellow wood sorrel 
but he can sense the timbre and tremolo 
and knows things about the birds
you haven’t dared to learn.

The birds he hears are free
but we make prisoners of humans.

Children kept in cages.
Here or there, what does it matter? 
Separated from their parents. 
Then or now, what does it matter?

Across the centuries
the birds observe
the anguish and the misery 
and still, the birds sing.

Oblivious to their song, in childhood
I wove a crown of vines in dappled shade
and wore it like a badge o’er my brain
in shadows like the camouflage my cousin wore
        when he was shot at
when his innocence was slaughtered 
along with his friends.

In my grandfather’s time,
he lied for the privilege to go to war. 
In my father’s time,
he had to be drafted.
In my cousin’s time,
the military was his last good option. 
In my children’s time,
can war cease?
In their children’s time,
which birds will remain
to sing?

— Erin Taylor


bird sings in the trees
leaves sway in the high branches 
the world sleeps in peace

—Paul Causey

In Secret

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret.” — Pablo Neruda Sonnet XVII

One night I put God away,
packed Him—Her, perhaps it was—
away like an old toy, a childhood journal.
Not the right path I said, and it was true—is true
that God is too small, a cutout painted,
the edges jagged from scissors that tore the cardboard.

But I packed something else away that night
a love, some slant of light on the sparrow at the bench, 
from a face on the street.
Not gone entirely, some scrap
of song, a darkness on the wind
coming round about, not at the front door
but a leak through the sash of the window
no longer nameable.

Maybe this had to be—
to stop pinning and naming, being good,
to stop doing the work
and let the work lead on its secret way.
But, oh, I have lost—the honey
green of leaves in childhood,
a light like milk falling from a basement window.

Throw it on the fire my teacher said. 
If it’s true, it will not burn.
And I, childlike, threw it in—
God and all the sacraments, the voice 
that whispered to me, the desire
for light and sweetness falling from the air.

And so a long, slow burning
a prayer like a coal in the mind.
So many years, all the world burning 
and I do not know where I stand
in a land sacred despite me.

Me still wanting to love—but what?
a glow in the night sky?
Me still wanting to throw it all on the fire— 
myself, God, Zen, the boxes and doors and names,

still wanting to stand in the rain and be nothing but rain

still hearing a sound chink chink 
bird call, whistle tone
voice asking, do you love me?

and my child voice answering, Yes. 
Yes, I love you.

If you tell me to, I will do it again.

—Sarah Webb