The House of Dying

Here I am, in a Brooklyn backyard, reading Donald Hall,
A book of 1970s poems called “Kicking The Leaves”
From around the time when he moved back
To the old New Hampshire homestead where his
Great-grandfather farmed from after the Civil War

Until the year before the so-called Great War.
I’m told he still lives there, frail and old,
And recently The New Yorker published
What one could only read as the poet’s note of farewell.
Yet here I am, watching the birds in April

While the trees are budding and the difference
Between a male and a female sparrow becomes apparent:
The males marvel, posed but alert,
As the females shake their wings and asses,
A call for assistance from the reproductive branch.

On the pages, I return again to “the house of dying”,
A phrase written in the middle of life
And a terrific title for a book
That a person could write when he is done
Jotting down the lines of this poem and the next

With a cheap plastic pen from the Algonquin Hotel
And done sitting here, in this cathedral of spindly maples,
As cardinals, robins, finches, and brown thrashers
Descend from on high, like prayers
No one needs to answer.

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