The Scarlet Ibis

By Hahn, Susan | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

The Scarlet Ibis


Hahn, Susan, The Virginia Quarterly Review


I

It begins on a tip

of the ear in

reality or metaphor-

it doesn't matter.

The matter out

of which we're made more

determined than any life

guide shoved at us

by mother or by father.

What is this

condition? What causes it?

What are its symptoms?

How to diagnose it?

To treat it?

Treat it with fear.

II

On the high curve of the ear,

outside the head's whir and whirl,

on the flesh without bone-

yet somewhat tough and elastic-

is the singed tip. Sick

wing without any ambition

to fly close to the sun, none-

theless done in by it.

Its relentless glare

on a body overstaying

its welcome

to the planet crust-

should have been already

buried or reduced to ash,

tossed back

into the atmosphere.

Too much consciousness

inflames the diseased

questions (Who will tell

my story? Can thought travel

without the skin vessel?)

creates a soot that blows back

into the face, which sucks it in

to become the smudged

mind. The person

who once sat next to me-

held my small hand with tight care-

has become the vague one

I am sitting in. Here,

lies the sore

that does not heal,

the one that will

become the end

of the story

of the low flight journey.

Ill

The body not yet anointed with coniferous resins,

not yet packed with wads of linen,

just some sterile pads of gauze and adhesives

to keep the skin bound and grounded

to this space, not yet ready

to slip through the corridor, the chamber,

the great hall, where the Ibis lies bandaged

next to the mummy with its mouth cut

so it can still ask

for some thing if it has cause,

not yet this body with its compression

tape held tight, the wound

where the dug scab once lived-

the crater where I now sleep

curled around the fevered wings

and quiver of a bird with black tips. …

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