For Dr. Steve Simmons
Sept. 14, 1941–June 1, 2020
You have been trying to depart for days,
propped up in a strange bed in the living room
that no longer looks like home, except for
loved ones, both two- and four-footed,
who wander in and out—
as you do, trying to find breath, release,
as images swarm behind your closed eyes
like bees leaving the hive or birds departing
their boxed nests, the ones you tended
for decades, hauling the gangly ladder
through pastures, propping it next to tall poles,
climbing up, peering into your handmade artificial
nests, counting, retrieving, banding young ones,
making notes, moving on to the next.
And now, on final approach to the great liftoff,
you cannot summon the strength to shake out
damp appendages, flap hard and ascend,
though, like the nestlings, you try.
Haven’t you been growing wings all along?
Hasn’t this lifetime with feathered beings
prepared you for flight?
You have no thought when it happens:
In the right moment, your chest bursts open
to a heartbeat of flapping feathers,
a wood duck readying for exodus.
Now all you must do is rise, glide, soar,
wing your way into what comes next,
focusing only on the clear blue of up.