{pf: p7 hindsight – & birds again}

It’s been three years since my mother was last meant to have retired.

Originally, it did not stick.

It’s partially a teaching thing. There’s always some class somewhere who needs you, and whose teachers are students you once mentored or something, and they ask – please? – if you couldn’t fill in for them while this or that happens, while someone has maternity leave, while the earth implodes and reforms its mantle and the dinosaurs return. It’s always something. And, my mother, usually, is happy to help. Usually. Lately, though, she’s been counting the days ’til her last subbing job is over, and saying, “Okay, I’m done.”

I think she means it, too.

I wrote a poem in response to one my mother wrote to me, about the time she went back to work, and with all the bird flurries going on just now, it fits the bill for a poem to which I want to respond.

No nightingale, nor angel without wings
Her song rings out while pushing playground swings –
“Use listening ears – Is that what Teacher said?
“Sand’s not for throwing. Throw a ball instead.”

Long years her songs have echoed in the yard
As Littles changed, and outgrew her safeguards
Such weary notes must falter now, sometimes…
“Keep bottoms on your chairs. It’s clean-up time!”
Some birds fly south, once eggs, now hatched, take flight
Are RV migrants, dawn, until twilight
This nightingale, whose silver-plumage shines
Still loves the song, affection genuine.

Though caged, she sings in faith. Substance deferred
Through evidence unseen, hope’s undeterred.

©February 2018

I love the resigned expression (if birds can have an expression) on the face of this piping plover, as all of her chicks cram themselves in around her legs. She’s probably wondering if she’ll ever walk alone again – I know my mother did. (The real question was probably more along the lines of if she’d ever get to go to the toilet again in peace, but let’s just draw a veil over that, shall we?)

In nature, parents are allegedly much more stern parents, and push their babies out of the nest. That’s not exactly true – more often than not, baby birds are nagged out of the nest, teased, cajoled and bullied – just like human babies. Most often, though, the babies just… try out their wings one day, and fly. Sometimes, it is simply… time. One of the more terrifyingly adorable babies of the natural world are wood ducks. Wood ducklings, according to PBS, jump from nests upwards of fifty feet high. And, they… bounce.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere… no, it’s not the one about leaping and the net appearing or whatever nonsense. The more likely lesson is that if you jump, you may land more safely than you’d imagined. Perhaps, the lesson is a Leap Year koan, something about, get out of the nest already, and give your wings a try. Whatever it is, I imagine it’s all in learning how to fall. Here’s to trusting the blue…

For your edification, this is a variation on a kyrielle.

Balboa Park 36

Baby Birds

They, loudly chirping, clamor for a bite,
A place to hide, or entertainment – rights
Which they demand as lawfully their due,
Beaks gaping wide and feathers all askew.

Offspring produced with effort quiet lie,
Sweet, silent gametes, nested warm and dry.
How anxiously they’re preened when they’re brand-new!
Their every tiny peep attended to…

But soon enough, their din and racket swells
(Almost as soon as their beaks breech their shells…)
Their growing wings and bodies can’t subdue
The restless urge to bid the nest adieu.

They stretch their wings, gravity’s neophytes
‘Til one small step entrusts them to the blue.

©February 2020

Spring is coiling to spring forth, the birds are busy, and there are poetic revelations – and a whole lot else – happening all over. Our poets are revisiting their writing – Laura‘s revisit is here, and Sara’s is here. and Liz is here. Tricia is here. Other of our poetry seven may pop in later in the weekend.

In the mood for more? Poetry Friday is hosted by Karen Edmisten, she of the shockingly clever blog with the perfectly lovely name. Have a marvelous nearly-Spring weekend, and don’t forget to leap.

10 Replies to “{pf: p7 hindsight – & birds again}”

  1. I love everything, everything, everything here — the teaching, the mama plover, the swallow babies (we have swallows nesting on our back porch every year and I love them)!

  2. I love this post, how you describe the ambivalence about retirement. I felt the deep connection that teachers feel for students. I’m not a teacher but so admired my sons’ teachers. Your poem made me miss my two boys and admire their bravery as they flew from their home nest. “Their growing wings and bodies can’t subdue
    The restless urge to bid the nest adieu.” Lovely poem. Thank you.

  3. Oh, those comments in the teacher poem are brilliant. And, and…having just spent a week in an amazing school and being reminded of the enormous and important work that all teachers do every single day–and having been an 8th-grade teacher, briefly–and being the sister of a 30-year teacher who was so dang tired by the end of her career–well, it made me cry just a little bit.

    And your birds poem. “Their growing wings and bodies can’t subdue // The restless urge to bid the nest adieu.” That so fits our younger daughter. She always is eager to return “home” for a visit, but we know her home is out there in the world now, and she can’t wait to strike out and claim it. Between teachers, parents, and young adults, this post…I wish it could reach an audience of gazillions. It deserves to.

  4. I so needed to read your 2018 poem today. I’ve been keeping a list of the teacher-isms that have been coming out of my mouth this year, and yes, some of them are in your poem.
    Funny, I thought about revising my wood duck poem, but revising a pantoum was just too much to undertake this time. Your new poem has me itching to get back to it though.

    The line “Beaks gaping wide and feathers all askew” paints such a picture of the nest and its precious cargo. Love your poem and this post.

  5. The “din and racket swells” INDEED. Someone once told me that teenagers are genetically designed to be so annoying that you’ll want to push them out of the nest. I never found that quite so…but I DO delight in seeing my two “out in the blue,” in ways that enrich the world. Your poem says it all beautifully, and those last lines….sweetness and joy!

    1. @sara: You’re right – they can’t be genetically designed to be pushed away, or else no one would ever pull them back and date them! And yet, noisy as we humans are, we manage to figure out ways to stop annoying each other eventually.

  6. Oh, I need to share that teaching poem with my sister! Much younger than your mama and still, she is TIRED!
    These are both beautiful and resonate. Applause from the wings!

  7. LOVE this post. So much wisdom here. And your mom writes poetry too? I’m definitely envious.

    My first thought upon reading your first sentence was Len — because he, too, was supposed to have retired several years ago. There’s always something to pull him back — fill in? temporarily? train a new guy? etc.

    Then I thought about my nephew, who’s definitely having problems leaving the nest.

    I love all this birdie goodness, great metaphors for life in general. Didn’t know about the wood ducks bouncing!?!! Wow.

    1. @jama-j: I can just IMAGINE walking into the woods and being pelted with falling baby birds. And yet, apparently myriad species of ducks do that every year! And they’re mostly fine. It’s terrifying! And hah – I can imagine that Len cannot stop helping out… that seems to be how he rolls. Additionally, I have a brother and sister like your nephew, dragging their feet – er, wings – to leave the nest, too. It’ll happen. Eventually…

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