By Jean Berrett
Yesterday driving home from Patuxent Wildlife Center,
I thought I saw the eagle.
I pulled over off the road
and leaned out looking
Very high up against the clouds,
There was a large bird, wings flat and straight.
So relaxed, not flapping at all, only an occasional
heave or slow shudder, like a word
or a weeping or a never mind.
It flew straight into the sun-shocked clouds, low in the western
The sun blazed steadily as the eagle flew into its
The sun that makes even me known, who cannot fly
except into a tawdry death, that makes known
even the crows who fly
with crossed silhouettes and gaudy sounds,
full of hope and destination
out of the black locust tree.
THE DIFFERENCE IN MASS
As a myth worthy of belief, the dusk
A last glittering in the marsh
where the wind has finally died down
and night stretches out like a long body breathing
over the grassy water.
In Milwaukee this afternoon, an old woman
who had packed her only life in two plastic sacks
screamed, tears in her eyes,
when a strong gust swept her to the curb.
As she raced to gather belongings
I could not hear what she cried out
but I knew she cursed
that even this wind
would shove her sideways
into a small, knotted death.
I remember splitting logs in the mountains,
how the swing of the axe fell gradually true,
homing into the wood’s heart, speechless.
I remember stirring dead ashes after the campfire
went out, wishing I could speak some god’s name,
wanting to say to someone, anyone:
“Come home, it is night, we have nothing to fear.”
4TH OF JULY
Commotion at the monument grounds,
where a smooth white tower rises high
without a prayer or plea.
People crowding in.
Signatures of exploding light
will sink into the Potomac.
I am not there, never mind,
but here in the swelter
I sit on a concrete stairway
of a clean brick-red apartment building
in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Children laugh, wave flags and fizzing candles
over there in the small playground.
Their mothers sit at the picnic table,
smiling and drinking wine.
I want to cry
for them, for me, for the mowed grass, for the
drone of traffic on Kenilworth Highway, for plate glass
windows everywhere, for death
that comes before we die.
No, I must, I will.
Some other metamorphosis.
A dark thing blazing inside dark.
A starling flies down, flutters and pecks
at the sidewalk, flies back up
in the hot dense air.
In her wing bones, frail, in her sweet song there is
a root, a crag, the call of a hawk, one uncompromising
About the Author:
Jean Berrett has been publishing poetry since 1973, after she took a Creative Writing-Poetry course offered by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The instructor told her that he thought she was the best poet in the class and he encouraged her to begin submitting poems to magazines. She obtained her BA at University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from Eastern Washington University, and she taught English at College of Menomonee Nation. Since she first started publishing, she has published 89 poems. Other publications include translations from Virgil and Lucretius and also three stories and two book reviews. She has two sons and seven grandchildren.