Betsy Sholl

At the Window

If the doctor’s new machine is right, my eyes

are turning into old window glass, warped,

distorted at a thousand points, watching

the moon’s fine edge start to fray.  But it’s spring,

 

and as if our rooms perched in its branches,

a flowering tree fills the windows.  How easy

to say as if—as if we were that couple of tiny

northern parulas, flitting from limb to limb,

 

as if we had flown all night, then dropped down

through power lines to feed at first light,

exhausted and starving, intent on the journey,

impelled to breed, breed, make life, always more life.

 

My grandmother of the coke bottle lenses,

of the enormous blue eyes flying close

to the glass like a creature about to crash,

used to recite when she stumbled, “’I see,’

 

said the blind man when he bumped into the light,”

which I only recalled after slamming into

the plate glass I must have thought was a door—

or didn’t think at all, lost inside my head,

 

as I charged full speed into spectacle-snap,

black-eye smack, at which I saw suddenly

how much I didn’t see at all, with a whole

restaurant watching.  When a bird flies into glass

 

does it pass from stun to sob, and have to

make up a new song, or does it shake off

the shock and go on where it was headed

all along, forget reflection?  “I once was blind,

 

but now I see,” John Newton wrote, and then

gave up his slave ship to grieve all the ruin

he had wrought.   But how did he come to see—

what fell from his eyes, what lens was corrected?

 

Until I really looked, I thought geese flew

in those perfect V’s we were taught in school,

which would mean this flock heading north aren’t geese

at all, with their constantly changing  stream

 

of unraveling threads, with their one straggler

wildly flapping to catch up, that outsider

squawking a different tune.   Now a small breeze

flies into the tree, so its blossoms flutter,

 

and a few tear loose to rise, to drift briefly

in the otherwise unseeable air,

that invisible substance we call nothing

and couldn’t live two minutes without.

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