Your head fell sideways, your feet drooped stiffly,
miniature withering trees, one wing clipped
to your side and the other, a twisted fan,
ushering and welcoming our human fascination
with that which cannot be saved.
Still, you maintained the jittery movement of birds
as you writhed, and I thought
how small your heart must be,
no bigger than the tip of my thumb,
and how fast a heart must beat in order to fly.

Large or small, our hearts have this in common:
dogged persistence, devoted worship
of repetition, expanding, contracting,
enduring, despite us.
What use is a heart this large?
A human heart expands
like an accordion, vast and spacious,
and must be broken
to hear the solo song, the muscle contracts
like a baleful wale, the sound of wind
being knocked out of you slowly.

To turn away, I have to find
that chilled indifference inside me,
the room with the cold drafts, as someone
comes out with a shovel, scoops you up,
still smoldering and humming
as your tiny life fades out like a lit ember,
and tosses you into the trash.

Anne Champion has a BA in Creative Writing and Behavioral Psychology from Western Michigan University and received her MFA in Poetry at Emerson College. She has work previously published in The Minnetonka Review, PANK Magazine, The Aurorean, The Comstock Review, Poetry Quarterly, Line Zero, Thrush Poetry Journal and elsewhere.  Her collection of poetry, Reluctant Mistress, is forthcoming from Gold Wake Press in 2013. She was a 2009 recipient of The Academy of American Poets Prize at Emerson College and was recently nominated for an Emerging Writer Grant from The St. Botolph Foundation. She currently teaches writing and literature at Emerson College, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and Pine Manor College in Boston, MA.

Even though I grew up with grandparents who loved their birdfeeders to identify all different types of lovely birds, the bird that always sticks out to me most is the robin: this is probably for its prevalence—it is the ordinary bird, the one everyone knows and many take for granted.  It also serves as that common symbol of hope: the first sign of spring.  The instance that this poem was inspired by happened in a busy alleyway in downtown Boston, and the bird had garnered a small crowd around it.  Curious to see the commotion, I peeked in and saw the poor mangled creature.  No one spoke, and the discomfort was palpable.  I think that any dying thing tests us: interrogates old wounds, turns a mirror upon our own mortality, makes us examine our capacity for grief and empathy, forces us to fully inhabit the world around us in both its beauty and harshness, and pushes us to harden ourselves against these painful reminders of what it means to be living.




Copyright 2009