Thursday, September 17, 2020

Poetry Friday: What's it Like to be a Bird?

I wonder what it's like to be a bird. I want to write about it. I know that birds don't live carefree lives; they spend all their time feeding themselves, and they fall prey to so many dangers. Nevertheless, because they fly, they seem effortlessly happy.

At the moment when I took these photos of an Antillean mango hummingbird on a wire right above our gate, we were hearing about chaos and burning on the streets of our city, Port-au-Prince. The bird, above it all, didn't care. Instead, he danced.


Here's a poem I read this week about a bird asking the opposite question: what's it like to be human?



by Anna Kamienska

translated by Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon

What's it like to be a human

the bird asked

I myself don't know

it's being held prisoner by your skin

while reaching infinity

being a captive of your scrap of time

while touching eternity

being hopelessly uncertain

and helplessly hopeful


Here's the rest. Read all the way to the end to see the punchline, the bird's response to the human's description of what it's like to be human.


Matt Forrest Esenwine has the roundup this week. 




Liz Steinglass said...

Oh my. This is gorgeous. And so interesting to flip the wondering from what it's like to be a bird to what does a bird think about being a human.

Liz Steinglass said...

I already commented but it just occurred to me that this might be interesting to give students the first and last stanzas and ask them to write their own middles.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

I've been coming across so many human-bird poems lately but had not read this one before. Thanks for sharing!

Linda B said...

I imagine we might all love to fly away on most days lately, Ruth. She touched on most parts of our human lives, didn't she? I had a brief visit with my daughter & family yesterday when we spotted a kestrel high up on a line. It felt like a gift to us for another day survived! It too winged away! Happy Friday!

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, I am sorry that chaos is still near you in Haiti. Those birds are filling my head with thoughts based on the poem. Thanks. "being hopelessly uncertain
and helplessly hopeful"- This is a big YES for my life right now. I am hanging on to the hopeful part...

Tabatha said...

Wow! I hadn't read this before. I love how she shakes us out of our ordinary ways of thinking.
(I posted some things she wrote here:

author amok said...

Oh, Ruth. What a gorgeous poem. The lines "being a captive of your scrap of time
while touching eternity" feel especially fitting during the pandemic. I love looking up the meanings of animal sightings. Here's one for you: "When a hummingbird appears near you, they are reflecting the positive side of life by showing you the joy in small things."

Linda Mitchell said...

What all the others have said. I so enjoy poems by those that speak another language from myself. The wordplay and usage is so intriguing to me. This poem is one I need to save. There is so much goodness and truth in it. Thank you for sharing!

Jone said...

This is what I needed to read today. I love hummingbirds and feed ours here in Portland.

Bridget Magee said...

I love this poem, too, Ruth. It reminds me of a time when my family and I visited a state park in Arizona years ago. We encountered a Native American guy in the visitor's center who wanted to do an "animal match" with us. After reading my "aura" he told me my spirit animal was the hummingbird. I was delighted! Much better than the skunk my husband was matched with! Ha! :)

Fran Haley said...

Birds are so enchanting - how can one not marvel, even envy, their ability to fly with such easy grace? I read the whole poem, wondering what gem of wisdom the birds might offer in response to the human - this is priceless! I love it.