A Thin Plea

Phil Hall

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(Falteringly)

 

Our national bird ­– for years – was – as A M Klein said –

the rocking chair

 

I don’t know what our national bird is now – but my totem bird is

the killdeer

 

Its names – odd mannerisms – & cry – explain bits about me – in

riddles

 

My daily writing self at 57 has accrued the usual odd habits &

noises – there are awful names I know myself by – lie-dances I

perform

 

In my hopelessness I half-hope my deflections might honour me

 

In open fields my bird ranges – it nests near cow plop & hooves –

its only protection a desperate busking

 

If a person or a creature approaches its eggs – the killdeer

pretends to have a broken wing – it flits near – then hovers away

– one wing splints forward at an unnatural angle – its cry seems so

plaintive

 

Intruders are diverted from its eggs by a chance at catching the

adult

 

Like that wounded arrow-maker – Philoctetes – I have a broken

wing – of sorts

 

Something wrong with my hands – eczema – nerves

 

My palms – red & dry – split along their lifelines – & bleed

 

It is difficult to wear white shirts – for instance

 

When I fall asleep I always go right back to the same fields I grew

up in

 

Dreaming – I wander in those fields – my hands bleed into the

furrows – I look for my eggs – I cry

 

I am not lying – but there has always been a hint of puppetry to

my whining

 

I grew up in farms between Bobcaygeon & Fenelon Falls – mid-

century – mid-Ontario – between Reaney’s townships to the

southwest – & Purdy’s country slightly north to the east

 

When I write I am always mid-field – on one leg – the other poised

over killdeer eggs

 

Have almost stepped on them again – but I hold the pose & write

instead

 

Around me the bird cries its lies – as I hover there – pen poised

 

I am overcome & rejuvenated by imbalance – complexity

 

Its Latin name is Charadrius vociferus – a vociferous charade – its

common name – killdeer – is a yoking of precious & doomed       

 

*

 

Killdeer – there isn’t much to say – just here I am here I am

 

Another waving of old tools as if they were broken wings

 

A thin plea my pain my pain – lies dying out in the dry grass – dying

out in starlessness

 

A few small poems have stayed warm

Phil Hall, "A Thin Plea". Copyright © Phil Hall 2011. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Killdeer (Book*hug Press, 2011)