'Nothing moving but his quick beating heart'
José Alcantara’s poem, which appeared in the winter 2020 issue of Rattle, seems simple enough - a splendid and hopeful account of a familiar moment - a bird stunned by a collision with glass, held in the hand and then, recovered, it flies away. Then we return to the title, 'Divorce,' and we see it’s doing what poems like to do, take one moment to describe another, seemingly unrelated moment. In the end it is a poem about resilience and care, something we all need.
by José Alcantara
He has flown headfirst against the glass
and now lies stunned on the stone patio,
nothing moving but his quick beating heart.
So you go to him, pick up his delicate
body and hold him in the cupped palms
of your hands. You have always known
he was beautiful, but it's only now, in his stillness,
in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle
of his being, how so much life fits in so small
a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm
against the unseasonable cold, trusting that
when the time is right, when he has recovered
both his strength and his sense of up and down,
he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,
and then rise, a streak of dazzling
color against a slowly lifting sky.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by José Alcantara 'Divorce' from Rattle, (no 70, Winter 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of José Alcantara and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kwame Dawes, is Chancellor’s Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.