Two Ways of Looking at a Redbird – a poem by James Hannon

Two Ways of Looking at a Redbird  


Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic 
power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the 
sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight                                           
in and of themselves….

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

                          --- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Nature


The dab of vivid red is a grace note 			    
in the snowy landscape, a painting, 			    
a photograph waiting to be made.			    
It is cardinalis cardinalis, its bold color		    
a surprising result of evolution, 			
one mutation after another, 			  	    
some that work out better than others		                
and voila! the bright northern cardinal.		    	
The delightful fit between the cardinal 
and the lens, retina and brain pleases us		    
so much because we evolved together.			                	
Our visual capabilities and aesthetic sense	
have been shaped by ten thousand
generations of mutation and natural selection.			    
Homo sapiens and cardinalis belong together.	   

The dab of vivid red is a grace note
in the snowy landscape, a painting,
a photograph waiting to be made.
The cardinal may be hidden
from the hawk but we can hear his trills
as he hops from branch to branch
in our overgrown thicket
on the shortest, darkest day when
the weary year lies down to die,
like a wise elephant who knows
she has had enough of this life.
Then in a flash he flares upward
through the overcast sky with the color
of the rising sun and the rainbow 
promise we still need to hear –
the dark will not last forever.

James Hannon is a psychotherapist in Massachusetts where he accompanies adults and adolescents recovering from disappointments and illusions.  His poems have appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Soundings East, Zetetic and other journals, and in Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets.  His collection, The Year I Learned the Backstroke, was published by Aldrich Press in 2014.

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