Yes, the title comes from a song by Johnny Cash. But he took it from a Christian hymn.
That is what Johnny did extremely well: employ simple, homespun symbols that meant a lot of things to a lot of people, and didn’t try to make them fancy.
Still, for all his downhome sincerity, I love his cover of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails because it shows he had chutzpah. It shows he was willing to do anything to get the word out.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the ties that run through my poems. There are some obvious themes, like heartbreak and recovery. But there are some poems that I wrote together with a similar voice in my head, but then posted/published separately.
For example, I consider vengeance to have the same speaker as rope. It’s her backstory on why a lawman would hunt her down to hang her… because she shot a man in cold blood in a saloon. True, he was her rapist, but still it was murder. In fact, I consider the “tin star, white hat” man at the beginning of justice (which wasn’t posted on my blog before publication, see link below) is the same lawman who hangs her.
As they say, the plot thickens.
The truth is, I didn’t start writing and publishing poetry with the intent of becoming famous. But, if that happens, then I am okay with it. And one thing professors love to do in literature classes is see threads and themes between poems/stories/plays and then figure out what the symbols mean, the author’s biography, etc.
So here’s another connection. This poem and mercy share the common theme of 1) my heart metaphorically being a bird, and 2) the bird and therefore myself being something precious and worthy in the Grand Scheme of Things.
After all, the fall of a sparrow is mentioned by Jesus in the Bible, and by Hamlet in Hamlet. You don’t get a better provenance than that in Western culture, frankly.
I had fun researching about the bird, including that Chairman Mao tried to eradicate the bird in the 1950s, which lead in part to the Great Chinese Famine of the 1960s. After that, Mao swapped out the bed bug for the sparrow on the kill list.
You learn something new every day.
And, oh, what is my favorite bird, you ask? I’m an Arizona girl, so it is…
Not pretty, but they eat snakes. Anything that eats snakes is tops in my book.
So, without further ado, here is my poem.
so small and yet so strong,
your kindred is a throng.
the Chairman tried to kill you,
but such hate is not new.
you cannot walk the line
that stays in good graces;
a shoe which unlaces.
of all the Earth’s fair fowl
that chirp, warble and howl,
I’ll e’er love best the worst.
for, like you, my soul’s cursed.
mind: pesky, naughty bird,
beloved of the Word,
our dying shall be known
to Father on His throne.