Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet and professor Julie L. Moore. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of Julie and each other, and write your own poems along the way.
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift. —Eavan Boland
My parents care what happens
to the killdeer whose nest of eggs
rests in their lawn. They worry
about the family in the storms that come.
The four inches of rain that falls in one night,
flooding the roads, the creeks, their yard.
My dad wants to harness the silver-
shingled cover of clouds, the warmth
in their electric touch, the very water.
To keep the mother alive whose cries overflow
the banks of her throat. To defend her unborn
chicks growing cold from exposure.
Beaks poke through,
rip in two the mottled fabric of the eggs.
Emerge. Tender and tentative,
like buds that one morning decide, finally,
to rise from their bed, get dressed.
And then: the fluffing of feathers, the flurry
of squeals. Like kids at a birthday bash, cheering
as the piñata breaks open, spills
sweets. Life is like that.
It tends to celebrate itself.
And my parents run outside to witness
the chicks’ first steps, finding irresistible
the urge to crash the party.
1. Do you know anything about killdeer? Do you think it matters, regarding your understanding of the poem? What if the bird had been a robin instead?
2. Have you ever written a poem in parts? What if this poem had been written as one, instead of in two parts? What, if anything, would be lost?
3. In fiction writing, character is often developed through setting and the characters’ actions in relation to the setting. This poem uses the same fiction technique to bring the speaker’s parents into focus. What kind of “characters” are they?