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5. Coastal

C. 1993 by Mark Doty

Cold April and the neighbor girl
    --our plumber's daughter--
       comes up the wet street

from the harbor carrying,
    in a nest she's made
       of her pink parka,

a loon. It's so sick,
    she says when I ask.
       Foolish kid,

does she think she can keep
    this emissary of air?
       Is it trust or illness

that allows the head
    —sleek tulip—to bow
       on its bent stem

across her arm?
    Look at the steady,
       quiet eye. She is carrying

the bird back from indifference,
    from the coast
       of whatever rearrangement

the elements intend,
    and the loon allows her.
       She is going to call

the Center for Coastal Studies,
    and will swaddle the bird
       in her petal-bright coat

until they come.
    She cradles the wild form.
       Stubborn girl.

SOURCE: "Atlantis" is a set of six poems by Mark Doty; it's the heart of his 1994 collection Atlantis. Three of the six are dream-centered. The World Dream Bank normally excludes nondream poems, but these are so powerful and compassionate I've made an exception and posted all six: 1 Faith - 2 Reprieve - 3 Michael's Dream - 4 Atlantis - 5 Coastal - 6 New Dog

LISTS AND LINKS: kids - birds - by the sea - nursing and caretaking - empathy and compassion

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