In defense of feelings about yourself

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

~ D.H. Lawrence

The small bird dropping frozen dead from a bough
without ever feeling sorry for itself
never had a parent who agreed with the teaching:
Do not have premarital sex.
Never felt his wing slip into a dirty hand
ruffling feathers between his legs.
Never wore clothes that he actually wanted but
made him feel like bubble gum
rubbed on the bottom of a plastic sole shoe.
Never knew the end or beginning of a song.
Never heard a news report about avian flu.
Never wielded nuclear or automatic weapons.

I observe two 8-year-old girls climb a tree
that stammers boughs through a chain link fence.
I hear one girl say to the other,
“I was mad at myself.
I felt embarrassed for myself.”
I barely hear the next words they exchange,
only the ardent way she insists on
feelings about herself.

I look above the tree they’re climbing.
First, at the power wire, where I imagine
your frozen dead bird is about to fall,
then, at the blue sky, scarce clouds
where your bird used to call his wings home.
And, though I feel the connection
to your open spaces, I can’t get outside
the ache of resemblance a child can recall in us–
playing old scenes of our lives
as their brand new stories.
This is not meant to be plagiarism.

Like a bird whose song cannot begin or end,
we have no author.
Spontaneous conversations simply quake,
an emotion curling in on itself,
reflexively scraping for a bone.

Ask that you hold very still.
Love what you cannot have
so you can break out of your boundaries
with longing.
Some may long to be incapable of self-pity.
Some may pluck a feather off the ground.
Assume the land has been flying,
switching places with the sky.

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