“Vigilance” by Sam Hamill

Sam Hamill


Trees, shrubs, grass—everything
glistened in late February frost
as first rays of sunlight
filtered through the woods.
I stood at the window,
coffee mug in hand,
and watched the first spring robin
hop and scratch and eat,
scratch and eat, first under
lace-leaf maples, then
along the edge of the path
that leads out
to my studio. I watched,
for almost an hour,
a happy bird enjoy a feast.

And for an hour, I put
away all thoughts
of our president in Europe
renewing threats,
put away all thoughts of
people decimated
by a great tsunami,
or of the latest casualties
in Iraq. Enough of that.
Give me
one moment with a robin
and a sunrise,
late winter’s harsh yellow light,
and crack
of frozen gravel underfoot
as I go out to work—
frightening off the bird—

a little wonder
in a suffering world,
a little delight
in a world of pain.
And then begin again.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005


Sam Hamill: “I grew up on a ranch in Utah, a farm in Utah, and my old man, my adopted father, loved poetry. And he would sometimes recite poetry while he worked. And he would explain to me, the rhythm of the work would help you decide what poem to sort of say. The way you sometimes hum or sing when you work—well, he recited poetry that way, and I think that was what first turned me on to poetry.” (website)

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