I often cry while listening to the news during the pandemic. The news, not new, of horrible murder and racism in the United States, not unique to that place, of old people dying in squalid long-term non-care homes in my province, of the poor, the discarded dying more often than the comfortable.
So far, I and my husband are in good physical health. I walk in the neighbourhood, coming down out of the high-rise we live in to the ground, to streets of old and young trees and houses with gardens, to the lilacs, the robins and cardinals, to the redbud petals raining on me in the wind in a nearby park on the weekend.
Before the virus, before the protests, the demonstrations around the world, before the mad dictator with his cruel mouth and willful blindfold, I was thinking of other losses. I gathered this poem I wrote years ago, added a few words and gathered a small stuffed bird-like creature I made of handmade felt, also a few years old. Here they are.
For the Nighthawks
Dusk, a week before the solstice:
a cool summer night.
I walk home from the subway
taking the residential avenue
off the busy one.
It’s slower here
birds are singing
and the trees are full leaved.
I could walk forever on such a sweet night.
On such a night
I remember the nighthawks from other summers,
I’d hear their cries
swooping low over the back lane
when the door to the tiny balcony
and all the windows were open.
I miss those birds.
It disturbs me that I didn’t notice their absence
until years after they were gone,
the echo of their accompaniment
shaming me in my inattentiveness.
Where are they now, I wonder?
Though they haven’t gone extinct,
their lives are threatened
with the plummeting loss of flying insects,
leaving empty corridors in the air.
Tonight I hear songbirds as I walk.
I cannot name them
nor tell them how they soothe the heart
on this plain summer night,
reminding me of what is good in life,
and of their relatives
who no longer pierce the city air.
Lily S. May June 17/12 – June 4/20