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An Ear-Full of Waxwing by Martin Willitts Jr.

An Ear-Full of Waxwing

—(An “ear-full” is the name for a collective of Waxwings)

Waxwings are not easily coaxed to a feeder.
I include cranberries,
sliced half-moons of grapes,
and pieces of apples.

Grandmother suggests
if I am quiet,
I can creep closer, see them nesting.

Her words challenge me to see which is quieter:
me, or the waxwings in flight,
or the sigh of a loose floorboard,
or a chicken feather coming loose.

I have seen them up close,
plump white bodies like a prototype baker,
a crest like a shark,
nesting in the edges
of woods where light hangs around
a long time past dark, near the fruit trees.

I almost don’t see them,
or recognize their high-pitched sseee call.

I almost stumble upon an ear-full of them:
yellow bellies, grey heads,
short, wide beaks, yellow tips on grey tails,
black masks around their eyes.

I can almost touch one,
hold one.

But I don’t.

I see a cup-shaped nest woven with silence,
using twigs, tugged-loose grasses,
cattail down, white blossoms,
string from a kite, black horsehair.
Their nest is about the size of my hands.

I could collect it,
bring it back to my grandmother,
a prize.

But I don’t.

The nest is perched,
teetering on a vine tangle.
It is about three inches deep, like a tea cup
on my grandmother’s shelf,
where she would stare into one cup,
seeing the future in tea leaves.

The nest is decorated on the outside
with fruiting grasses, oak and hickory catkins
like the floral pattern on the tea cup.

I want this nest,
its fancy designs,
to offer to grandmother,
knitting her silence into psalms and prayers.

But I don’t.

There is a clutch of six eggs
with black spots
like my summer freckles.
There is a silence within the silence.

I hold my breath,
as an egg.
The pale blue eggs match the cloudless skies.

There is a way to gently enter the world:

it takes patience to move so slowly
that you are unnoticed,
blending in.

You must exit
the same way, like slow grace at supper.

I take back my memory to grandmother,
tell her about what I had learned:
the meaning of stillness.

There are some lessons one must learn the hard way,
the plain-spoken way,
the unspoken way of flight,

the way one turns a page in life like it is a book.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The conversational imagery of this poem gently guides the reader into an understanding of life, growth, and silence.


One response to “An Ear-Full of Waxwing by Martin Willitts Jr.”

  1. Bob Bradshaw Avatar
    Bob Bradshaw

    Amazing details are recorded here. And some delightful imagery.

    There is a clutch of six eggs
    with black spots
    like my summer freckles.

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