“An Aviary of Notions” by Gary Lemons

Gary Lemons


Wisdom sits down to dinner disguised
As a guest covered with small birds.
The birds are trying to fly but are stuck
In the fabric of the visitor’s adornment.

No one is happy, not the birds,
Not the other guests, not the table set
With candles or the freshly carved animal
With a knife in it—no one
Is happy when wisdom barges in.

If this moment were frozen
We’d see the birds are actually part
Of the guest, are eruptions from what
In him awakens that wants out.

We’d see the legs of the table tremble.
We’d see the oil from the flesh
Ooze down the knife into a pool
Where bread is dipped.

Speaking for everything
That has been deported to a country
Where love is hunted not for its
Meat but for its feathers,

I say—wisdom does not deliver
Itself to anyone that will
Break bread at its table—this
Is the human folly disguised
As an aviary of notions—

At any minute the birds might
Break free to live in the air,
To sing a song note by note, tree by tree,
About a forest where everything hides until,
Following the song,
We come with our axes to listen.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006


Gary Lemons: “It’s almost a cliché to speak of poetry as a transformational process by which the poet begins, through the writing of the poem, the sacred work of becoming a better human being. I believe this. Each poem is a gift much like each prayer is a lesson. What matters to me is the tissue deep shift I feel each time the words come out in that spare and clean way that tells me I have spoken as truthfully as I can in my own voice. The poem as it is written becomes my window as well as my mirror. I am grateful for this every day.” (web)

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