In memory of Tom Haggard
Were they tall terns? Or meant to be herons?
Lined along the sill of your big bay window,
the small wooden birds your hard hands carved
as Christmas gifts for a dozen children,
birds facing iced panes as if seeing through,
down the hill and through the thin grove
to the pond where four months before
I caught my first sunfish off the dock,
my father nearby, at home in the silence
and attending to me to unhook the barb
from the translucent lip still pinched in my hand.
The sunlight glinting off the pond
made the thin veil of fish skin glow.
Returning to the house with my lonely catch
and a small tale to tell, you laughed so hard
you enlarged what I knew of the world’s embrace
and you told the one about flying your plane
all over this stretch of western Missouri.
You spoke my eyes wider.
What did the birds witness through the frosted pane?
What is this I caught from the sunfish glow?
Did you ever know that you were a land
where so much light crossed the thinnest space?
Or were you just offering whatever came
from a handful of words and a whittling blade?