God, you were a meticulous man
wouldn’t let me fill the feeder.
Even the last year when you couldn’t sleep
and standing wore you out,
you’d set the kettle to boil,
leave your sugar and dye
to cool like thin blood
in the kitchen you’d built, cramped
because you’d forgotten room for the oven.
The feeder was nothing fancy—
four flaming gloxinia with crisscross plastic
hearts you tended like a fine machine.
How those little birds seemed to love
or anyway trust you, zoom in, rest
for a second, drink with you standing right there.
From the window I marveled
at their confidence or credulity or instinct,
how those thumb-sized birds, deep
in their minute frontal lobes,
tiny throbbing hearts, knew you meant nothing
but love, old man.
Author’s Comment: This poem and “Pie at 3 AM” both started as exercises from The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, specifically the chapter astutely, brilliantly titled “The Family: Inspiration and Obstacle.” I’m working through the book with another poet, Iris Tillman Hill. We meet roughly every other week to share and critique our results from a handful of the exercises. We spent almost two years going through Steve Kowit’s In the Palm of Your Hand before moving on to The Poet’s Companion. I recommend both books—and working through them with another poet.