David Schwartzkopf’s vivid, beautifully seen poem reminds us that it is through the material that we can approach the spiritual and can acknowledge our shared mortality with every other creature. In this poem, we see the sacred through the material body of the bird, and Schwartzkopf explores important questions about respect, and about our relationship to what we see and how our seeing can enlarge or diminish the other.

David Schwartzkopf lives in Portland, Maine. Mid-career, he left hospital management to pursue a lifelong desire to study poetry and earned a Master of Fine Arts in poetry at Vermont College. More recently, he has worked with adults with traumatic brain injuries, an experience that informs much of his writing.


Betsy Sholl, MAJ poetry editor.




There is something too alive here still to be


caged by explanations—though I try


focus the camera lens, then turn away from

your stare

with my intrusion, my need to capture

and name.

What if I just frame your face,


among the scattered trinkets—a smooth stick,

twist of yellow

rope, an urchin shell gathered for your journey.

Little Blue Heron,

immature, neck not yet elongated, what

stranded you

here between the tides? Your head rests

oddly at right angles

to your body, as though a patient part of you

still plummets

to earth and sea. Aligned for last rites by the tide,

black sand

sprinkles the white down of young feathers, sacred

dark confetti.

Your kelp sash slips undone, and deepest

blue lines

curl about your eye, opaquely blue and still

I’m unsure

how to show respect, and which of us

is captured

in this too small image I will make of you.


Image at top: Helen Hanson, Storm Bird, photo.