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  • Sarah Van Arsdale

April 7, 2022

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Prompt: argue with a proverb or aphorism.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The woods were brushed with summer light

going crepuscular but still holding that lemony glow,

the world slowed and stilled

and it seemed I’d never hear my mother

calling us in for baths and bed.

The woods were flush

with plangent songs of hermit thrush,

the warblers and the wrens, their songs

a fabric stitched of sound and light

ribboning through the beech and birch

escorting me to my bed beneath the northern eave

where in the heat I’d pace through

my child nightmares and my dreams,

in the pink cotton pajama set

Grammie brought back from China

with fabric knots for buttons

and the little girl in black braids like mine

playing with her grey cat embroidered on the breast.

That was so long ago,

back when we said “Orient,”

as if the whole world’s center

must be located where we lived.

But the birds, back then,

how they’d flock the summer dusk

skirling the air with their lucent song.

Worth more, the lot of them,

wild and singing and doomed

than these few now captive,

the colored rows of study skins

drawered in the dusty formaldehyde museum,

the last passenger pigeon,

black catbird, heath hen.

The silence rising up where the beech and birch

once stood.

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