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Barbara Edelman: White-Throated Sparrow

The word that’s gone
for example
could be handkerchief
and I’d think
Desdemona or bandana
the cloth square sailing
without a name

It could be Maamoul
and the mind’s powdered sugar
would find no place to settle

I have lost my Maamoul
and my Mamá
and the accent on the second syllable
the ear for cadence

It hovers like a moth
The word is moth
The word is mother
The mother hovers, still
though she is dead
Unstilled, she hovers in the heat

Though she is dead
she is buying me a car
and this buying makes her happy
happy in the part of my body
where she’s stored
like a scroll inside a cartridge

In a car along a ridge
windows open
looking down on
fields of alfalfa
forests of hardwood

I’ll be moving in her gift
She’ll be still
beneath the fields

like the song
to me inaudible
that isn’t really gone

for example
the white-throated sparrow
There’s a terror
in the sound I cannot hear
as it embroiders the air

I am heir to a deafness
to a hardness, to a car
to a ridge above a farm
a farmhouse synagogue
a pewter tea set
a coil of roots.

(c) Barbara Edelman. From All the Hanging Wrenches by Barbara Edelman (CMU Press, 2022).

Barbara Edelman is a writer and teacher living in Pittsburgh, PA. Her full-length poetry collections include All the Hanging Wrenches (2022) and Dream of the Gone-From City (2017), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. 

White-Throated Sparrow (Wiki images)

9 comments on “Barbara Edelman: White-Throated Sparrow

  1. Loranneke
    April 5, 2023

    There’s a terror
    in the sound I cannot hear
    as it embroiders the air — lovely!


  2. rhoff1949
    April 5, 2023

    Exquisite: the heart of the observer observed, with delicacy and art.


    • Vox Populi
      April 5, 2023

      Thanks, Richard! I love this poem for its warmth and quick turns.



  3. Arlene Weiner
    April 5, 2023

    Beautiful and piercing poem. https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/136579


  4. rickcam21
    April 5, 2023

    fine poem


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  5. Sean Sexton
    April 5, 2023

    What a fine, sweet, lovely and very inspiring poem. We too have mothers “scrolled inside” us, a car to drive one of them never saw, not to mention an Art Studio, and swimming pool. Even a touch of cancer an inheritance. There is nothing we can or can’t do without in these terms as we sing with the little birds in terror.


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