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Poetry

“I wrote many of the poems…by Jane’s side, as I sat with her in the hospital or at the house. Originally, I wrote many, many more poems than I wound up printing. Occasionally, I read one of them aloud to Jane—often, as I remember, at her request. ‘What are you writing, Perkins?’ I don’t remember her suggesting changes, but she may have done so. I believe that Jane liked it, me writing these poems. Poetry was after all the tremendous commonness between us. At least one of us was writing poems, I writing the poems that she could not write—about what she was going through.”

This first Advent alone
I feed the small birds of snow
black-oil sunflower seed
as you used to do. Every day
I stand trembling with joy
to watch them: Fat mourning doves
compete with red squirrels
for spill from rampaging nuthatches
with rusty breasts
and black-and-white face masks.
I cherish the gathered nation
of chickadees, flashy
with immaculate white vests,
with tidy dark bibs and feet,
spinning and whirling down
from the old maple, feather
ounces of hunger, muscle, and bliss.