By William Olsen
Everything I’ve always wanted, want me was the haiku I was working on when I thought I heard the mail come, some metallic hello of the mailbox lid creaking open and slamming shut, but I think it must have been my heart instead because there wasn’t any mail at all inside there, not even a bill, not a cancelled stamp. And there was nothing but emptiness in saying it was empty. Just thinking of saying so was heartless. So now in place of my heart was a deep well, a well that didn’t end well, a well that didn’t end at all. Meaning, what I was was what I saw, and what I saw was, and is, a seesaw down there in my deep well looking back at the seesaw I saw in the mirror at the bottom, O. Or was it, because it was a reflection, a sawsee? Yup, and after that mental yelp what should I see but a hummingbird, just a glimpse, rare occasion, first edition, last run, print on demand. I saw it! Here in Kalamazoo, particularly in the last three letters of this place name, having left the mailbox and halfway up the stairs to the front door and half done eating this banana like, well, a stir-crazy monkey! Here was a this, and this was a sight, an assent, an opportunity the saw-after-the-see opens wide long enough for attention to seize, it even so somehow outmaneuvering attention. A glimpse. Hovering in front of the trunk of an old oak. Which set me in the valley of the shadow of thinking, Christ be with me. Then, with a scant rise in elevation, and that iridescent aura that is as a thousand rainbows appearing at once as if beneath every hummingbird a little thunderstorm had always just ended, it rounded the trunk. And that was it, and it was that. And more or less the most, best thing of the whole day. When what should I hear to the side of me was a knock knock who’s there not you that’s who from inside a shed. Only when I looked inside this shed it wasn’t there at all. In fact, I am not even sure the shed was inside the shed. What I am sure of is that I thought I was hearing a woodpecker, taking, or willfully mistaking, our shed for a tree. When I stepped outside the shed to shoo it away, whatever it was, I saw what I was could be what I saw without having to saw the seesaw or the sawsee in two. So I left it at that, just for you. See? A downy, leave it at that, let it go, leave it and love it. Looking formidable, all striped black and white. Why has no one ever likened a woodpecker to a zebra, I found the time to ask? Blithely gorging, not a zebra at all, a pig with wings, feet firmly locked on the peg of the feeder, wings drawn in, monk-headed tree-tapping contraption, there just like me. Let us out! But, and this is the thing, the finches started getting in the act, too, in a complete tizzy. Dithering finches alighting on any available peg, only so intimidated by the pig bird’s seed-pecking presence, finches aspiring high as the leaves, up to the eaves, cascading back off to a peg, then back up to the eaves to wait their turn in some imaginary line, putting it all on that line, soon to sheer downwards but looking around quickly first, taking in the risk factor because a bigger bird could very well be in the picture, then at that brief instant a bird can be exactly like a person of hope and faith, diving.
William Olsen has published six collections of poetry, most recently TechnoRage (Northwestern). His poetry has won fellowships from the Guggenheim, NEA, and Breadloaf. He lives in Kalamazoo.
Originally appeared in NOR 5