To hear the poet read "Learning Window," click
Morning swoops down on her with words, chews,
Regurgitates. She swallows greedily
But will not sing.
So much to be hungry for.
She dreams of mockingbirds, old women who speak
The minds of others as easily as their own.
She twirls her tongue, practicing the feeling--
Imagine breaking the shell
And floating free of silence, knowing from birth
All the sounds your parents make.
Look at them.
Mouths hovering above the crib each night
As if to consume the world with singing.
She dozes, waits for them to disappear. Even
A sparrow, dark, plainer than darkness, must listen
Only to the song its mother knows--
Practicing in silence a one-note vocabulary.
Pain rising in the mouth, hunger, no,
A tooth, the will to chew.
They're here again.
Tufted, possible, beyond the glass, envelope
Of light in which she's waiting, a throat,
For a reason to believe there's a world inside.
James Longenbach's most recent collection of poems is The Iron Key. Graywolf will publish a new prose book, The Virtues of Poetry, next year.