Poignant memory

American Life in Poetry

Bruce Willard​’s poem, ​“Song Spar­row,” cap­tures with such inti­ma­cy, the inter­rup­tion of the com­fort­ing rit­u­als of time: sea­sons chang­ing, chil­dren grow­ing old­er, water under the bridge, the world con­tin­u­ing its march. Here, in the midst of this, our long and tumul­tuous pan­dem­ic ​“sea­son,” I am struck by how famil­iar the breath­less­ness that Willard describes feels. As with the best poems, the famil­iar­i­ty is formed through empa­thy – some­thing that poet­ry teach­es us, again and again.

Song Sparrow

That summer we opened the lake cottage,
prehistoric sound of loons before us,
decades of children at our back,
familiar sound of water
under the porch eaves.

A song sparrow
hit the window
just as summer began.

You held it in your hand
bent over, unable to breathe
another year, working
your fingers
under its feathers and bone.