A Bird in the Head is Worth Two in the Bush

April is National Poetry Month. I don't normally get all worked up about it, but with the recent death of Adrienne Rich, I've been thinking about the place of poetry in my life. I'm hoping to post a bunch of poems this month; it's good to have goals.

The first poem I ever memorized was Emily Dickinson's "A Bird Came Down the Walk," and I believe it was an assignment in the sixth grade. The practice of memorizing anything is very under-rated in our culture. Often, the things we've memorized are not by choice. We remember commercial jingles and video game themes, but we rarely decide and embark on a course to memorize a particularly meaningful passage or poem. The world is a darker place because of this. We imagine there is no need to memorize because we can always find it online. Of this, I am not certain.

A Bird Came Down the Walk

Emily Dickinson

A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad,--
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, plashless, as they swim.

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