Author's Note: David Huddle was my thesis advisor at the University of Vermont so it is no surprise that I have read his work since 1979 when Paperboy was published. I am delighted that he is still writing engaging and compelling poetry. As my poem, “In Response to David Huddle’s 'The Case for Juncos'” suggests, birds have been a wonder and inspiration since humankind could perceive them. “Art’s Happenstance” addresses the complex notion of making decisions, and being mindful of their consequences. As a woodcarver (indeed, any craftsperson or backyard builder) I understood that there is always risk in making things by hand and eye.
In Response to David Huddle’s "The Case for Juncos"
Fences are for those who cannot fly. -Elbert Hubbard
What poet does not envy birds?
They never worry much over stone walls,
or the slip and grind of rivers below,
mountain peaks or storm clouds,
but pirouette with debonair ease.
He knows his birds, his life list of poets
who have cut their quills, inked their wings--
nightingale and crow, windover, darkling thrush,
raven, ovenbird, junco, albatross.
He teaches us birds, a wonder of color,
how feeders are too quickly depleted,
how birdbaths freeze in Vermont,
how to season language
with flit, ruffle, scold and tweet.
They are floaters fooling the eye, a flock,
a V, a murder, a murmuration whipping the sky.
Intently, he photographs backyard buddies,
posting them on social media as if
to capture the fleeting image
before nuance, molted, drifts away.
We are all students at his window.
One stone tread is slumped, third
step in the rock garden rise.
Built thirty odd years ago, the wash
of seasons has menaced my work--
opossums may have footed there,
grandchildren when they visit.
Each day, it mocks my level purpose
by just being there, being
its own weight. Not on my regret list,
but that it is too much art for me.
Like a boulder rolled from mountains
aeons ago to rest in a farmer’s perfect field.
To right it, adjacent stones require
shifting, a lift perhaps with
mechanical advantage of lever
and wedge. Lichens are scuffed
and scratches render a new history.
Undisturbed, it may be a landmark
rabbits recognize and snails joyride.
It may be the anchor of this poem.
2018 Frederick Wilbur
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