It Has Come To My Attention

I have been reading fairy tales recently. I’ll apologize now, because I’m not much of a poet, but there are things for which prose is useless, like trying to pry a nail out of a wall with a Buick, and if I can’t come up with a hammer or a screwdriver, I will make do with a butter knife.


It has come to my attention

that people like me

are generally not welcome in fairy tales.


It’s the talking birds that do it.

The minute a sparrow shows up to pipe a direful warning

it’s all over

down at the first hurdle



The body in the fifty-fathom well

will have to wait

the old woman turned into a hare

the murdered mother in the juniper tree

as I whip out my Sibley guide and look for the entry

with the fieldmark labeled capable of human speech.

For this crime

I have been accused of a failure of wonder

of having chained up my inner child and sent her

to work in the salt mines.


But the truth

(if you really want to know)

is that I have read so many fairy tales

and lived a little bit too long

to be surprised by anything that happens in

the cottages of lonely woodcutters.


I can even venture a guess

as to why the bear speaks with the voice of a maiden

(my heart goes out to her)

and why, when the animal has saved your life,

you will be required to make a harp out of its bones.


These are old familiar mysteries

as love is an old familiar mystery

the dwarf’s name

the contents of the enchanted walnut

the thing which stands behind the mill.

Fairy tales are human things

which we have chewed over

since before we could eat solid food.


But a bird!

A bird that talks!

This is outside my experience

this un-parrot-like fluency.

I have so many questions for it—

Where did you learn?

and How do you make the P’s and B’s and M’s with that small stiff beak?


and most important,

Are there more like you out there?

7 thoughts on “It Has Come To My Attention

  1. Victoria says:

    Don’t apologize! This is a wonderful poem. And I’m right there with you.

    Although, I’d probably be the one contacting the Sibley guide people to say “Are you aware that you missed a whole subspecies of sparrow? You need to add another field mark to the guide.”

  2. tanita says:

    Well, there’s my Poetry Friday thought of the week.

    Fairy tales are human things

    which we have chewed over

    since before we could eat solid food.

    …butter knife poetry works. I like this.

  3. Aubri says:

    Wow, I love it. I fell down laughing at “–whip out my Sibley guide…” but the end was just perfect. You’re talking about a true sense of wonder instead of the pre-prepared, manufactured one that relies on monsters and magic.

    The answer, by the way, is that they approximate labials using their glottis in place of lips. At least, Alex did.

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