Back to Issue Twenty-Nine.

Turning Sixty


                    And what have I to show
for six decades but a few thin, remaindered or out-of-print
                    volumes of poems? Not one

word wondrous as this barn sparrows’ nest my wife found fallen
                    from rafters into
the caked mud. It was not stomped into nothing by her horse’s

                    hammering steel
hooves cantering out, “You can’t, and you can’t!” No, she reined in hard,
                    jumped down, alighted

in the indoor arena’s raked sand, sawdust, mud, manure and scooped
                    it up in both palms.
Nest the size of a demitasse. It was clean and empty. She brought it

                    home. It sits
on a saucer painted a bull’s-eye’s narrowing, concentric circles—
                    red, white, light blue,

azure, white, yellow, orange, white, azure, white, green—
                    on our kitchen counter.
Painstakingly, slowly, day by day, two sparrows built it

                    from dead, dried
grasses, some with tiny seed pods still clinging to them,
                    a bit of white twine,

straw, and many silver horsehairs. It is almost weightless.
                    It is spirals so
intricately woven together that gazing into the nest

                    is like looking down
the throat of a tornado, a still from impossible, daredevil
                    weather-channel footage

shot by a cameraman in a two-seater Piper Super Cub. Tornado
                    that took out
two towns and killed three people last night. Channel 5’s morning news

                    showed piles of toothpicks
that were houses. Winds at two hundred miles per hour, the supercell
                    passed us by.

We and the bird nest survived. There the sparrows laid their gray
oval eggs, no wider than a Winged Liberty Head dime, which hatched into

                    more brown barn sparrows.
The parents fed their nestlings livestock feed—oats, wheat, and corn—
                    as well as ragweed,

crabgrass, buckwheat, and the occasional caterpillar
                    or grasshopper.
The nestlings grew feathers. The new fledglings flew.

                    No need for the nest,
it was abandoned by both parent and offspring. It stayed lodged
                    in the barn’s rafters until

it fell. I hold it—light, brittle, but still supple—in my left palm,
                    think of our two
daughters now grown. Lucy who wants to apply to medical schools

                    and interviewed
yesterday for a job as a scribe in the ER, to follow the doctor
                    from curtained-off room

to room, to transcribe on a laptop computer case histories,
plans for surgical procedures, meds, postop follow-up. And Eleanor

                    who starts her internship
next week on the high-risk obstetrics unit of a hospital
                    in Geneva, Switzerland,

who will take notes in French, which has become her mother tongue,
                    who is training to spend
her life helping women give birth to screaming, bloodied infants,

                    whose new mothers and fathers
will work long years to raise them into men and women who will go into labor
                    and deliver their own

children . . . It’s dizzying to think this way. All I know is that I’m holding
                    in one palm
my life. It is tiny. It is so insignificant

                    and magnificent
that it takes my breath away. It is made of straw, gray grasses, and shining
                    silver horsehairs.






       for C.F.

The morning you committed suicide, Dana and I
                    were making slow
unhurried love in a beach house with the windows open

                    so we could hear
across the hummock of the dunes the surf’s continual sighing.
                    I didn’t learn

of your death until five days later when a friend sent me an e-mail
                    announcing your
memorial service and including a link to a gallery

                    of photos and videos.
At the click of a button, you come back to life.
                    There you are,

in stylish purple-rimmed glasses, hair cut short as a boy’s,
                    feeding leaves
to a giraffe near the wooden sign that says, “Kenya

                    Safari Club, Zero
Degrees Latitude.” You giggle while a Sykes’ monkey, with its
                    white throat like the ruffled

collars in portraits by Dutch masters, balances on your bare arm.
                    I gulp
when I play the video of you being interviewed by the Kenyan

                    schoolgirl who asks
you to describe your family. You reply, “When I was in college, my mom
                    got cancer and . . .

and that was that . . . And so, you know, since then it’s been . . .
                    I’ve just been on my own
and trying to live the best life that I can live.” Two seconds later

                    the video ends.
After Dana and I made love the morning you died
                    at twenty-nine years old,

I washed off sweat and sperm in the outdoor shower.
                    I keep walking the beach.
Moan after moan, waves hypnotize me. Steady metronome

                    of rollers sounds
eternity’s diapason. I hear you say again, “I’ve been . . .
                    trying to live

the best life that I can live.” You did. In another video clip
                    only ten seconds long,
you joke to your lover, “Sarah, what are you doing? Making a video

                    of me blinking?” She takes
a close-up of your face grinning from a pillow. It fills the frame.
                    You’d just woken.

Donald Platt is the author of six volumes of poetry, most recently Man Praying (Parlor Press/ Free Verse Editions, 2017) and Tornadoesque (CavanKerry Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in many journals, including The New Republic, Poetry, Nation, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, New England Review, Salmagundi, Field, Iowa Review, Southwest Review, Southern Review, Tin House, and Yale Review, as well as in The Best American Poetry 2000, 2006, and 2015. He is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, three Pushcart Prizes, and the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize.


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