A thousand birds

A thousand birds—they flew out of

your mouth at your dying,

                                       as you said

                                       they would

& bewildered me: 

                       They bewilder me still.

Poet Hilda Morley wrote that. It’s from her poem, “A Thousand Birds.”

When she gave a reading back in the 90’s for the journal I co-edited, Passager, at the University of Baltimore, she said the poem was about her husband, composer Stepan Wolpe, and the music that remained unwritten at his death.

She told us how they once lived in a tiny Italian town, where Stepan had no piano. He had to walk down the stony road to the local movie theatre to use the piano there.

I have her book, CLOUDLESS AT FIRST, in front of me now. After the reading I tried to buy one of her books but she had sold them all, so she sold me this one, the one she read from.

The book falls open at certain poems: “Animula Vagula,” “Out of Nothing,” the middle of the long “A Thread of Scarlet” and “For Margharita Rospigliosi.”  “Weight & Lightness” is marked with a rectangle of lined notebook paper.

In the front of the book, she wrote:

Warm greetings from Hilda Morley

I was thinking about Hilda tonight. Don’t know why. Often I’ve found myself remembering her words

a thousand birds

as she spoke them at the podium. So I looked her up on Wikipedia and found she died 13 years ago.

I hear her voice.

By S.J. Driscoll