feather ( a poem about the ways we make meaning)

Today, when I went to my car
To go meet my good friend for coffee
And to visit another friend
And her baby
Who we hadn’t seen in quite a while

I looked down to see a feather
resting on the handle of the door
A little feather
Tiny, really.
Soft gray down
Belonging to a baby bird
I would guess
likely a pigeon
I’m sure.

Entirely, common
in a city like this
in a back alley
Where rows of parking spots hold cars
like mine
Where trash is left
Food discarded
And city birds congregate
To do the things city birds do.

And I immediately wondered,
Who was this bird?
Where she was going?
And what this might mean,
this little feather
From a little bird
Just clinging to the door handle
Of my car

Could it be a sign of freedom
Or of the things that fall away and get left behind
Of going places or
Choices made
What sign was this
For me to make note of
and apply
to my own life?
After all, it was balancing ever so
precariously
Right on the handle of my car
This seemed important – this small detail
in the way that small details
often do.

Or perhaps it is just this
that the bird flew by
and lost a feather
one she’ll never notice
(I’m convinced, you see, that she was a she)
and then the wind blew from the north
heading south – like birds do for winter
and lifted the feather
and carried it until it hit my car
and there it stuck.
no more or less than that.
Perhaps we want so much to
ascribe meaning to things
Because we feel so accidentally assigned
To this life
To this particular set of circumstances
No reason given solid
Enough to explain the random
happenstance of it all.

To make sense of
the good and the bad
The way things happen to people we love
Or to ourselves
And we can’t stop it.
The gains and the losses
The way love ends
The rough gash of it all.
And people leave, even when you believe
with all that holds belief
That of course they will stay.
The works published or ignored
The bank account sliding from full to empty
The lucky pennies thrown in fountains
without any idea if wishes come true.
And the raw pulse of anxiety
Rising from all the unanswered questions

All the misunderstood signs
Call it karma or fate or destiny
or religious preordination
or just that simple yet specific serendipity.
the days and weeks and months
Where they seem in our favor
And they others
when they are not
Signals sent into space and returned
with a resounding yes
Wires crossed. And bodies unwound
Or lovers who collide in space
in a way that makes no sense
in a way that is just as random as
that tiny feather on my car door handle.

And all this went through my mind
in that moment
In that rush of thoughts
as I picked up the feather
And held gently in my hand
up to the light
With fingernails painted red like wine
And then placed it gently in the empty cup holder
In the center console of my car

keeping it for some strange reason
Some desire for it to mean
something
to say that this is not without significance
this small gray feather

and maybe that is what
makes meaning
In the end

Simply this.
Simply our desire
To take notice of
The smallest things
To mark them as important
To wonder about their mystery
And the wisdom they bring
To hold them close
to pay attention.

To say that this
Just this
right now
it
matters.

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