Birdland, by Cynthia Neely
Winning Poem from Poetry for the Mind's Joy, The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress
Back to list of winning poems
This poem was submitted for the "Poetry for the Mind's Joy" project and is reproduced here with permission from the author. All rights reserved. Poetry for the Mind's Joy is Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's project that includes a community college poetry contest administered by the Community College Humanities Association and a lively videoconference.
“In the split second of eternity, what do we know
that isn’t before speaking?” —James Grabill
Near the end of his life, Charlie Parker
had nowhere to go. He rode the subway
to the end, then rode it back again.
He stood in front of Birdland in the rain
with nothing left to say. Music plays
inside our home, in mellow tones, Black Cat
purrs a wheezy tune, cockatiels whistle and buzz;
my husband's hands clasp ebony and mahogany,
feather nylon strings. His fingers move
of their own accord, articulate a chord
to say what he can’t say, while outside,
a red-tailed hawk completes a fence post in the rain.
Wenatchee Valley College, Wenatchee, WA
Faculty Contact: Derek Sheffield, Humanities Division Chair