The bird fell into my chimney

with a broken wing, and half-

fluttered, half-scraped

out of the fireplace, where my

third live-in Russian nanny

picked it up with her coal-cold

hands, the big hands, pale and

almost blue as clouds, thin-skinned,

that let the veins of sky

surface from beneath them.

Those veins of sky, through which

rush little birds and owls and

all kinds of winged beetle,

sometimes break, like my Nana’s,

sometimes let a bird drop

against a window or into a chimney.

But the chimney has to be there

to receive it. And those hands,

though they scoop it up again,

try as they must, cannot

convince the sky

to take back the bird, cannot

repair the broken wing,

cannot, although it will die,

make that bird want again to fly.

Jacob Oet is the author of four poetry chapbooks, with a fifth forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His work has appeared in such journals as Cream City Review, Yemassee, 580 Split, Redivider, and Moonshot, among others.

While I was a small child in New Jersey, my immigrant parents worked in that big city across the bay. Trying to give me a way to retain my Russian heritage, they dropped on me many Russian nannies, one after the other. I'm sure all the nannies had different names, but when I remember, they all flow together as Nana. Her personality was that of a substitute grandmother. I think she loved me as much as she was able. But I grew out of childhood without the ability to speak, read, or write in Russian. Among the many things that I was given (sometimes accidentally) during those years, was this bird that fell into my chimney in the middle of the day, an event that would leave a lasting impression on my relationship with New Jersey, with Nana, with my parents, and with the Russian language.




Copyright 2009