I loved you before you ever had wings or ever had song, before flight was a dream and you its loftiest incarnation on the cusp of forever, lovely feather, lovely button eye of a bird tied like a fly and cast down a cold, clear stream on a bubble line running out to the mouth of a river, singing the brightening air and I your hindmost admirer, loving you even in the dark when I am afraid and alone, more so and ever after and always, with St. Francis walking arm in arm in Assisi but also here, of all places, in Alma, Michigan where a neighbor revs his souped-up bike and blares industrial rock that threatens to chainmail the neighborhood in a panoply of sheet metal, junk yard, with Sisyphus lagging behind stacking yet another phone book on his pile of endless asbestos, yon gleaming roofs of corrugated iron of a shanty town coming to a theatre near you. And each one of you, every lovely bird, waking me and others at dawn not in raucous cry but pure throated wonder and the desire to be, every lovely bird, how washed and shining do I wander down the hallways of your singing when I wake and listen in the dark next to my wife who is also a most lovely, lovely bird, holy audition of a sacred origin whose plinth is the hollowed out temple of yearning itself and the birth of every prayer, what soul of beauty created you and may I sup at your table on a bread crumb and a thimbleful of wine, every lovely bird, may I partake once more of your singing as you commence and consecrate the day, this day, any day, as long as we both shall live, and what could I, dare I offer you in return, every lovely bird, earth-bound and ineffectual as I am, though there must be a secret part of me and part of everyone that is a lovely bird also to hear you this way hopeful way each morning in the land of ululation, for why is listening the deepest vocation and why is hearing a song commensurate with the thralldom of an ever renewing hereafter?
Tell me where can I go where you have not already delivered me? Who is the boss, and who is the monger? And what is the cost of these auditions, and why is sound deeper than any picture, vibrations that constitute this holiest of waking fields? Rain is a song and so is the laughter of a child on a swing creaking in the sunlight. The window I look out of is a song, but it’s quieter than most, almost a whisper as it sings through staring. I grew up in Nebraska wanting to quiet the wind, but when it stopped I wanted it to brush my face again with the lash of its breathable hand I could almost kiss and hold in my own hand. I love you, every lovely bird, especially in the dark when I cannot see you and I am anxious at the beginning of a new day, which could be my last, when I want what I cannot have, which is everything, always, without exception, desire like a chant I can’t stop singing over and over and over again, awaiting what the stars will bring and the stars themselves hopped up on hydrogen.
Where does desire come from anyway, lovely bird? Who gave birth to it and why, and why is desire the thing I know better than anything else, better than I know myself? Why so much blue sky and a shelf of sunlight on the windowsill that peels away every strip of falseness? Why heat, then cold, then heat again and the touch of another, the sigh of another, the attraction of bodies, the smack of a tennis ball, a groan of ecstasy from a mouth with a great spirit within? Who am I to even ask these things, each and every lovely bird, brother and sister, minion and prince, helpmate and master? Am I just a fool to believe you herald paradise, or is paradise itself a place where fools go to laugh and hold hands? Why a semaphore flashing on a ship and a plane banking through the clouds? Why this one morning and your singing, and why do I hear you so perfectly as if I was made for your singing? Inside your throats there must be a special chamber where people can lie down and close their eyes, home at last in maybe the only place that matters, your song, your aria, your root of being where the little flowers bob and weave on their drooping stems, weeping in near the bright cave walls as your notes and trills rush by their bonnets, waving back at them like water.
Robert Vivian has published four novels and two books of nonfiction.