Though swallows promenade about the barn
in shaker reels, I track them each by each
to guess their names and grandma’s names
and memorize their iridescent oddities
of feathers. Top, they wear the sober gray
of Oxford dons but underneath they flash
like dancehall tarts. It is a country pomp.
I’d bring you here to stare. Your stillness
at the swallows’ ball would be my Christmas gift
to you. You either get it or you don’t. You don’t?
Then I will try to exegete my love for them:
Does God exist? the little birds invent the One
Who knitted figured swans into His temple silks
where mortal eyes were never cleared to look;
Who hemmed His levites’ robes around about
with woven pomegranates, for no cause;
Who frets a kid might boil in mother’s milk
or oxen spend a sabbath in a ditch.
He doodles in the margins of His book
things high and low: the sweetness of His laws;
the date when I shall die; a running count
of berries bagged and labelled with the year.
Just watch, for winter’s coming to their barn.
I’d lift with fingertips these feathered dead
from under January snow into my house
of many mansions, seat them at high windows,
dry and comb their plumage, bring them meals
then fly them back to join their nesting mothers
in the Kingdom of accounted feathers.
If it were not so, I would have told you.