Vox Populi

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Elizabeth Jacobson: Birds Eating Cherries from the Very Old Tree

I thought I would make a short list of what is not a feeling.

Birds are not feelings.

Birds eating cherries from the tree are not feelings.

This is the best entertainment, I say to myself, watching birds eating cherries,

and now I have made a feeling.


The robin’s beak glistens with the sticky juice.

When a cherry comes off a branch, snagged on the sharp point of its beak

the robin flies away with the cherry, perches on a fence post.

But the robin cannot eat the cherry if he is holding onto it,

so he drops it and goes back to the tree for more.

The robin is not a feeling.

The deep rust of the robin’s breast is not a feeling.

But when I recognize the robin as male because of the color of his breast

a feeling about maleness swells from my center, and I shiver.


The magpies take big bites out of the cherries, half of one at once.

They squawk and scream at the other birds, who ignore them.

Listening to bird calls is not a feeling.

A very old tree is not a feeling.

But when I think of how very old the tree is, a feeling comes.


The magpies tug the cherries off the tree, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time.

They fly back to their nest and pull them apart like prey.

Below the nest piles of cherry pits lie in varying shades of decomposition.

A young sparrow flies from the cherry tree, giddy perhaps from all the sweetness,

and crashes into my window, breaking its neck.

The bird is warm in my hand.

And I have made another feeling.

Copyright 2018 Elizabeth Jacobson. First published in Ploughshares. Included in Vox Populi by permission of Parlor Press.

Elizabeth Jacobson’s second book Not Into the Blossoms and Not Into the Air won the 2017 New Measure Poetry Prize, selected by Marianne Boruch.

2 comments on “Elizabeth Jacobson: Birds Eating Cherries from the Very Old Tree

  1. judi
    December 20, 2021

    thank you for sharing this..
    I would have missed it otherwise..

    Liked by 1 person

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