By Judith Hannan
There is a mystery fruit
in the bare limbs of the Locust tree,
gray with a tinge of rust
plump ovoids against a lead sky.
A Locust is a leguminous tree
pod-bearing, as in seed pods
elongated sugar snaps
fat string beans, not ovoids.
A sudden wind gust, the fruit wobbles
wings sprout, the fruit transforms
into a flock of robins overwintering
on this New England island where I, too, remain.
If I could ask the robins a question,
it would be: Why there, high up in that exposed tree?
Why not gather behind the curve of the cedar’s needled boughs
within the cave made by its snow-weighted arms?
I have never asked a question of a robin.
For avian wisdom, I turn to barn swallows, bobwhites, hummingbirds,
less ubiquitous and, because less common,
more mysterious and worth querying.
What do you do after your babies fledge?
Do you care that you are loved for your beauty rather than your strength?
How does it feel when your cry for a mate goes unanswered?
Do you ever want to disrupt your routine of migration and procreation?
Without their migrating cousins the robins
are thrown into relief against the winter landscape.
Why choose a blustery treetop over a swaying palm?
Was it a choice or preordained?
I embrace the splash of the icy wind,
a substitute for the ocean I haven’t entered since New Year’s.
Do robins seek invigoration?
Are they New Englanders scoffing at snowbirds?
In spring, the robins will come down from their perch and
dot my lawn, heads tilted, listening for worms.
I will bow my ear to the ground and
wait for the earth to speak.
Judith Hannan is a writer shifting her home base from New York to Chilmark and Ireland. She is also a teacher who works with homeless mothers, young women in the juvenile justice system, cancer patients, and health care workers. Her two dogs make sure she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Poets with a connection to Martha’s Vineyard are encouraged to submit poems to curator Laura Roosevelt at firstname.lastname@example.org.