Magpie Wisdom

Up in the hills on a fine spring day
Blown amongst the tree tops
I met not a chickadee, not a wren
But a magpie
Lover of death
And Joyful Singer
All in one

We began a-talking
As I, lover of joy
Yet singeing of death,
Made the unlikely but matched foil
For this ying yang colored
Raiment of a bird

He hopped on one foot
Then jumped down to the grass
Shot his tail up towards the shadows
And began a-chatting fast
Bibbling babbling
Quicker than I could
Clap along

Finally a pause
A deep breath
And, I thought, a chance for me
To share my two cents of worthlessness

But no, began again the magpie
With that old wive’s diddy
Surely you’ve stumbled across it
While nestled in aproned lap of yore
It goes like this
Said the robin to the sparrow
I would really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
rush about and worry so
Said the sparrow to the robin
Friend, I think that it must be
They have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me¹

And yes! There lie a premise
I could pounce on
Fueled by a clever chill of the north wind
I dared reproach the magpie
And exclaimed…
But I have a secret garden!
So secret that even I
Barely know of its existence
For the garden dare not step forth
In the confines of these four dimensions

Ever the rationalist
The magpie glanced at the
Weather formed mountain majesties
And down towards the barren gravel
Beneath his feet

He sparred…
Growth in a garden
Often holds signs often symptoms
Leaves blossom, vines reach towards the light
And roots, though less visible, are massive
Even more massive when invisible to begin with
And how massive might roots grow
When torn out

I watched the trees sway in the wind
Jealous and an admiring spectator
Of worldly-unworldly feats
For never willI let roots down so far as to
Withstand the accidental sigh
Of a calm south breeze

For every chance for bloom
Means staying in one place
Means indebtedness to the earth and air
And sunshine bestowed upon that
Pocket of geography

Indebtedness
Pain in brutal storm
Reason enough to forego
The spring glory of petals
And cotyledons unfolding

Yet the best of growth occurs in spite of us
In spite of occurrences
What seems an empty hole
In fact a vast expanse
Filled with everything but emptiness
And spreading so far as to shame the big bang
For the laws of conservation of energy or matter
Matter not when it comes to my secret
garden

A brisk gust from the valley below
Ruffled the magpie’s feathers
From his dusky throat
Sang three clear notes of joy
And he was gone

You have wings, but I have roots, I cried after him
Roots, I cried
I cried
And it began to rain

¹Cheney, Elizabeth. “Overheard in An Orchard,” 1859

Romany Redman is a combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics resident at the University of Utah. She has a bachelor's degree in Russian Language and Literature and played fiddle in one of the first Siberian Irish pub bands before moving back stateside for medical school.

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2019 Poem, "Magpie Wisdom"