With My Father atop Birds Hill

Catherine Stearns

When he pointed to a squiggle in a tree
any child could make into a bird,

its bright banner one I thought I knew,
I twirled my frilly skirt and sang out—

not yet knowing that flight is one
of many disturbances between us,

or how much hides in plain sight.
The hand holding mine shook

like the shivery motor of an Easter chick
before it withdrew. And that was it:

another hand left in billowing space.

No need to pity the girl any more
than a bird crossed out, for she believed

in the world here below, even when
the word turned from banner to gash,

even when, especially when
in a fit of love or rage the heart chimes in.



Catherine Stearns is the author of a new chapbook, Then & Again, published by Slate Roof Press. She is writer-in-residence at the Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.

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