Blackbird


          After Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
perched on nothing, in mid-air —
so black against the glare of sun
it makes me stop and stare —

Now I spot my eye’s mistake —
the bird’s on a sapling’s tip
high above the marshy lake —
feet clamped upon a twig —

The blackbird isn’t still at all
but swaying in the breeze —
he warbles not to keep me warm
but to startle souls from sleep —

You can hear him in the chillest lands —
beside the strangest seas —
his voice is sweetest in the storm —
of deep extremity —

He fluffs his feathers — swells his chest —
displays his badge of fire —
parts his beak and trills his best —
is answered by a choir —

He sings the tune without the words
and never stops — at all—
he’s asking more than crumbs of us—
but who will heed the call?


Play Notes: The inspiration for this poem was a red-winged blackbird that my husband and I noticed, perched at the very top of a sapling. At first, the bird appeared to be perched in mid-air, because we couldn't see the tree's tip. It was a stunning sight. Later, while trying to write about it, I thought of Emily Dickinson's "Hope Is a Thing with Feathers." I decided to play off her poem. Perhaps you could write a poem playing off a famous poem that you like?


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