20210407

M.J. Iuppa


In A Silent Way
                                           
August, 2018

A steel-blue & black feather, with white crown & ready quill, laid obliquely 
on my doorstep. By what logic did I pick it up & twirl perfection between
my fingertips? I wondered who else had seen it, but left it lying there for me? 
For something so light, it had heft. Would this feather hold me steady over 
the course of a thousand days? Would I learn how to listen without fear of 
losing ground? Would my voice be heard in a room full of consequence? 
Would I make the right decision, knowing survival depended on it?
                                                 ~ ~ ~
With certain say-so, I pressed this feather’s tranquility between the pages of 
a journal called travel.  I promised safe-keeping, not to lose it; however, I did 
lose sight of it for months.  Only to be surprised by its quick flutter as if it were 
coughed out of my journal’s darkness to settle onto a solid oak table bathed in 
lamplight— this accidental still life— where its colors deepened & breathed in 
the quiet. I breathed, too.
                                                ~ ~ ~
May, 2019

We had traveled to Western Ireland, to the town of Grange, just outside of Sligo.  
We were staying in a large stone house called Clasai Rua, with a full view of the 
mountain ridge Benbulben— “the black pig lying on its back.”  It was striking 
to sit and drink a farmer’s cup of breakfast tea, while gazing out a bank of kitchen 
windows that captured Benbulben in its grid of small panes. I was seven months 
cancer free. I had a close cap of white-gray hair— my eyebrows & lashes were 
filling back in— my face, re-appearing. In that split second, I knew I was a part of
 the reflection of everything that was held in and out of time.                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                  ~ ~ ~                                                         
Every morning, just as first light piqued the sky, a raven, that presided over 
the pasture where cows spent hours feeding and sleeping, would sit on the 
thick stone ledge and rap its beak insistently on my bedroom window. 

Vexed— I would rise and open the curtain, and he would tilt his head, like
a cleric, and size me up with a dismissive shrug. What? Not ready yet.

Impatient with me, he’d hop twice, turning fantail to fly to a white cloud of 
blossoms on an isolated Hawthorn tree. This became a ritual.
                                            ~ ~ ~
                                  Nothing is what it seems.
                                            ~ ~ ~
May, 2019

Standing at the foot of the poet W. B. Yeats’s grave, in Drumcliffe, my eyes trace 
the epitaph: “Cast a Cold Eye / On Life, on Death. / Horseman pass by.” And I think,
everyone, who stands here for a moment near an umbrella of English sycamore where
a small congregation of crow peers down upon them, is aware that their gaze upon 
the headstone will be short-lived. I must have stood there longer than expected. 
Holding still in the shadow of the church, in the sudden chill of afternoon, I became
invisible to the nature that surrounded me. The crows flew, one by one, to the soggy 
ground and began to walkabout.  A wood mouse scurried along the base the headstone 
& slipped down a moss-covered hole hidden among small stones, and twigs, and one 
black feather lying on the margin of the grave.  I picked the feather up.
                                                   ~ ~ ~
         I am flooded with thoughts from the past that will not leave me.
                                                   ~ ~ ~
Standing in the middle of the West Bridge, known as the Famine Bridge, in Galway,
we looked upon the weir’s rushing water and watched the legal limit of seven fly 
fishermen, casting their lines as they balanced a basket of salmon hooked on a strap 
wound around their waists. It was sunny, a bit brisk but not chilly; seagulls turned 
slow circles overhead, crying out their hunger’s plight, looking for any scrap of 
leftover, while pied wagtails, hooded crows, jackdaws, magpies flitted tree to tree 
that lined the Corrib, and a few woodpigeons waddled along the cobbled streets. 
The scene was a living post card; a place I wanted to keep as my own. What I kept
was a silver-gray feather that floated out of thin air & settled lightly on my sweater. 

A young man, who had sidled up near us, saw the feather’s landing and began speaking
to me, then us.  He was a professional birder from Oregon, who had come to Galway
to lead a birding field trip, which he was anxious about, because the weather predicted 
for the next day promised clouds and drizzle. We continued talking, not to miss an 
opportunity to know more about the birds that we were watching. Once we knew that 
he was hooked by our attention he began to point out birds that were indigenous to 
Ireland and compared them to their “distant cousins” we would recognize in the United 
States. Meeting him was a gift of answers.
                                                ~ ~ ~
February, 2020

Mid-winter, 16 months cancer free, but something was brewing. I could feel it
in my body without physical evidence. I had no pain or symptoms. I decided 
to walk it off. And so, I did, finding the blast of cold air to be that “snap out of it”
slap across my face.

Beneath the crab apple in our back yard, I found a red feather lying near puddles 
and loose stones, like a tiny flame, it dazzled briefly in noon’s chilly overcast—
this flicker of the past—my desire to be lasting—my cheeks flushed with the feather’s 
certainty, readying to take flight.
                                                 ~ ~ ~
How long does luck hold out? I’ve lost the red feather. Is it under a chair, or inside 
a box, or beneath my pillow?  I am searching.
                                                 ~ ~ ~
Christmas, 1976

Long ago in winter, you gave me a gift of feather earrings, and beneath 
the porch light full of dizzy snow, you said: Taking off is the first step . . . 



M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 32 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.
 
 
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