Painful situation

American Life in Poetry

José Alcantara’s poem, which appeared in the Win­ter 2020 issue of Rat­tle, seems sim­ple enough – a splen­did and hope­ful account of a famil­iar moment – a bird stunned by a col­li­sion with glass, held in the hand and then, recov­ered, it flies away. Then we return to the title, ​“Divorce,” and we see it’s doing what poems like to do, take one moment to describe anoth­er, seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed moment. In the end it is a poem about resilience and care, some­thing we all need.


He has flown headfirst against the glass

and now lies stunned on the stone patio,

nothing moving but his quick beating heart.

So you go to him, pick up his delicate

body and hold him in the cupped palms

of your hands. You have always known

he was beautiful, but it’s only now, in his stillness,

in his vulnerability, that you see the miracle

of his being, how so much life fits in so small

a space. And so you wait, keeping him warm

against the unseasonable cold, trusting that

when the time is right, when he has recovered

both his strength and his sense of up and down,

he will gather himself, flutter once or twice,

and then rise, a streak of dazzling

color against a slowly lifting sky.