Releasing A Bird

I've been working all of ten minutes when I hear 
scraping, chewing, maybe a crunch, a flutter 
in the ceiling, and finally recognize it: a bird 
caught in the chimney pipe.  I wait. No use. 
I yank out the bottom-plate.  He drops, black 
fanning in all directions, flicker one 

with crow at this point, and bangs into windows, one 
after another.  I open what opens, chase him here 
and there till he's out the door, heart aflutter, 
and soaring over the scrub-willows.  Time to block 
the chimney cap, I decide.  Who wants birds 
dropping in forever?  So I climb up, use 

an old plastic flower pot, then use 
the height to scan the horizon, having won 
that right by my good deed.  Higher than the birds, 
white cumulous clouds billow and spill.  Here 
it's bright, but you can make out shadows and black 
thunderheads in the distance.  My mood, the flutter 

of good will, flag of a my disposition, flutters, 
sputters, slackens and droops.  The ladder I used 
to climb down with I can put away in the back, 
and in the cabin I can sit at my desk, one 
foot up, slowly rolling back the morning, hear 
the parade of sounds and listen to the birds 

outside, their commentless unfolding of bird- 
song or hoot.  But something's gone so utterly, 
destabilizing, wrong, my mood slips.  I hear 
it reel, its scratching attempt to hold on, no use 
once the slide begins, like the bird, gone 
and not coming back if it knows what's good for it, soot-black, 

storm-cloud-black, starling-black and back 
there, somewhere in the distance that's blurred 
now, that bright light has turned wan 
and the bright mood muted, subdued, frittered 
away now.  What is it happiness doesn't like in us 
that it can't stick around?  What was here is there 

and that's that.  Some light's gone the way birds 
fly south come winter's flutterings.   You push your hair 
back.  You muse.  You start thinking back. 
Copyright 2001, Mark Halperin 
first appeared in Time As Distance 2001, New Issues (Western Michigan University) 

Mark Halperin teaches at Central Washington University.  He has taught in Japan, Estonia and Russia as well.  Time As Distance is his 4th book of poems.

"Releasing a Bird" is a sestina, a form with 6 six line stanzas and a 3 line concluding stanza. The same six words that end each line of the first stanza end lines in following stanzas, but their sequence differs. In this sestina, rhymes and homonyms of end-words may take their place at the ends of lines.