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
with my intrusion, my need to capture
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
here between the tides? Your head rests
oddly at right angles
to your body, as though a patient part of you
to earth and sea. Aligned for last rites by the tide,
sprinkles the white down of young feathers, sacred
Your kelp sash slips undone, and deepest
curl about your eye, opaquely blue and still
how to show respect, and which of us
in this too small image I will make of you.
Image at top: Helen Hanson, Storm Bird, photo.