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Lay for the Day
1st January

Hank Williams died on the road in the small hours of New Year’s Day, 1953.

Bay (the first poem)

for Hank Williams

The path’s edge is busy with baby birds
where a thumb-size sparrow casts a hand’s-length shadow
and though the starling young have not yet learned
the vandal manners of their speckled elders
they already shrill at each other fiercely.

Looking more closely what glistens in their beaks
I read their common pursuit.
It’s July, the first fine spell in weeks,
a day for winged ants, easy pickings,
coming out to breed.

Even as I think my making phrases
even out of them disturbs them not at all,
of a sudden they fly off into one tree.
I brought the frame of mind, as chance would have it,
that small things please.

To forage or threaten and thieve
is all one to the birds
but then wasn’t the Christian first
to get through paradise gates
also a thief after all, worth many of these?

John Gibbens
from Bay

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar