Judy Longley’s poem “First Breakfast at Home Following an Emergency Appendectomy” appeared in our Summer 1998 issue. Her collection My Journey Toward You was the 1993 winner of the Marianne Moore Prize for Poetry.
Had I glanced from buttering my toast
a moment before, would my heart
have been riven by the fierce thrust
of beak and claw? Great wings
shadowing the window like fate,
my parakeet trills, swinging
in its cage like bait until a thump
thunders the pane. I look up
into a drizzle of feathers, the hawk
dying on the ground below, wings
unfurled against the snow in a swoop
that seemed a sure thing.
Some call it grace, our innocent
preoccupation in the face of death.
How serene I felt my last day of work.
One hand sheltering the fox
that gnawed at my belly, I gazed
past my patient’s glassy calm
for the ruffle and stir of her pain.
Next day, spread on the operating table,
arms bound to winglike extensions,
anesthesia hurled me toward the sun.
A knife sinks into butter, caged
creatures sing for their supper.
How bold we are, flying full tilt
into nothing we can see, how we persist.