Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Two Poems by Two Poets: Eamon Grennan and Janet Grace Riehl

Last year I met Eamon Grennan's poetry through the Lannan Literary videos, a marvelous resource that deserves a post of its own. Eamon Grennan quickly became one of my favorite poets.

Former U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins says of Grennan: Few poets are as generous as Eamon Grennan in the sheer volume of delight his poems convey, and fewer still are as attentive to the marvels of the earth. To read him is to be led on a walk through the natural world of clover and cricket and, most of all, light, and to face with an open heart the complexity of being human.

When I read his poem on the warbler who died hitting his window, I recalled a poem I'd written on a quail who died flying into our window, and just for fun, I wanted to place the two poems near one another, as we bear witness to the sacred in the everyday.

On a Cape May Warbler Who Flew Against My Window
by Eamon Grennan
from What Light There Is and Other Poems, 1988, North Point Press, Copyright 1988

She's stopped in her southern tracks
Brought haply to this hard knock
When she shoots from the tall spruce
And snaps her neck on the glass.

From the fall grass I gather her
And give her to my silent children
Who give her a decent burial
Under the dogwood in the garden.

They lay their gifs in the grave:
Matches, a clothes-peg, a coin;
Fire paper for her, sprinkle her
With water, fold earth over her.

She is out of her element forever
Who was air's high-spirited daughter;
What guardian wings can I conjure
Over my own young, their migrations?

The children retreat indoors.
Shadows flicker in the tall spruce.
Small birds flicker like shadows--
Ghosts come nest in my branches.

QUAIL VISITATION
from Sightlines: A Poet's Diary, 2006
by Janet Grace Riehl

Daniel cleaned twin windows facing the mountain.
Cleared away grime two years in the making.
I cooked supper while he looked out.
"What a shame when birds slam into glass."
Then, suddenly, one did.
A big sound. Then, down.
Tiger prowled the deck to claim his surprise supper.
Then jumped up on the screen to announce the meal.

We scrambled outside.
The oval body, more than stunned.
Dead. Neck broken on glass masquerading as air.
Quail.
We'd never seen one fly so high.
Never seen one so close.
Never held one in my hands.
Hunters must all the time.
Topknot dangling. Eyes closed. Heart stopped.
So many shades, soft gray and brown scalloped with black.
Still feet and pointed toes.

"Do you want me to bury it?"
No, I'll lay it at the top of the land.
At the edge of the woods
where the mountain lion roam at night.
Sing a prayer for its soul
to soar higher than houses with solid air.
To soar into another life quicker than coveys
scurry through dry grasses in the moonlight.

The cat pacing, pacing the deck.
Excited by its whiff of wildness.
I led him outside, in the opposite direction.
If he hunts for it, all right.
But the quail deserves a head start.

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