one day they will fly

One day soon they will learn to fly.


Reflections: 07/08/1990

A night
in the life of us.
Kathy says
she wants credit
for the title.
I say.
I am easy.
Tommy has always been
or so he thinks.
I think
we are all too
for real life.

Several days ago my husband discovered a nest containing newly hatched baby robins in our rhododendron bush.  I took a photo with my phone.  I keep looking at the picture, amazed that such tiny creatures are able to survive at all.  How is that even possible?  I mean, look at them.  They have scant feathers and see-through skin.  Their spines are a yellow dotted line down their backs.  They cannot hold their heads upright.

Something in the fragility of these babies made me think of a night long ago. My sister was visiting from Virgina, about to move to California.  My brother was still alive.  I convinced them to go with me to see the movie, Cinema Paradiso — a magical film about childhood and how it shapes who we become. Afterwards, we went to a bar where we drank wine and wrote poetry on paper napkins.  Then we sat in a park, talking into the night until one of us was sober enough to drive home.  I kept all of my napkin poems from that night twenty-four years ago.  Dated and numbered, yellowing and stained; seven of them in all.  I don’t know if my sister still has hers.  I wish I had my brother’s.

I don’t remember what started it, the writing poetry on napkins.  Most likely the wine and the movie, the looking backwards to the past.  Wondering how any of us survive the chaos that comes with growing up?  We were so fragile then, our dreams as transparent as glass.  Our poetry so self-confessional.

But survive, we do, for a time.  Some of us longer than others.

The baby robins are thriving.  Which is a miracle to me.  In five days they have doubled in size.  Their feathers are coming in and there are the shadowy buds of wings that will eventually lift them from their nest.

I hope to bear witness when they do.

Five days old.  A crowded house.

Five days old. A crowded house.

21 thoughts on “Fragile

  1. This is so perfect. The tiny fragile babies, then again doubled in size. And then napkin poetry! I sort of had one of these magical nights with siblings. It was long ago and I didn’t realize that might be it. Maybe there will be more, but far better just to appreciate and record for posterity. So great you saved those napkins.


      • Alas, I didn’t. But the words and lines live on in the poems that they were transferred to. And thank you-I love that line of yours: ‘I think we are all too fragile for real life.’
        Beneath the tough exterior we sometimes portray, I think we all are vulnerable.


  2. I think we are all a little fragile. We all have a breaking point – a point when we boil or freeze, bend or break. Some bend more than others. We are all human – it’s the human element.

    I love the robins… We have a few nests around the yard. Fortunately, Ivy is low to the ground or she’d be in ’em…my kids, too. The poem is a nice thing to hold on to. Never let it go, just like the memory of that night.


  3. Wine, poetry on napkins and baby birds….sigh.
    Your words always capture me right from the start. My “napkins” have always been scraps of paper. After my daughter left for college, I cleaned out her room and found priceless pieces of paper scattered everywhere. Thoughts, notes, errands and middle school poetry. I have them safe in leather box that I keep all of my treasures.
    Thank you so much for sharing this, Mary. Thank you so much 🙂


  4. What a gorgeous post. Those napkin poems tell such a story. Three poetry-writing siblings and now here you are, binding the memory to this summer story of new life and hope. Well done!


  5. Mary, I just want to again tell you how much I enjoy your writings. Whether describing your sibling relationships, or some of the unique experiences growing up in Star Lake, or the common memories that we both share, you strike a chord. I find that those chords resonate with me for days and weeks afterward.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories with the rest of us!



  6. Mary, I hate having missed you those years we were in Star Lake together. Thank you for lifting the curtain now and sharing your thoughts, feelings, insights…


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