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from the November 2019 issue

Birds of Paradise, 1965

In this poem by Enrique Villasis, faith and desire take the shape of a flock of birds.

Here is how one is seared by unspoken desire: holy and yellow,
Like this scene of a setting sun always ready to melt
Over our eyes and chests, and the departing light bringing with it an ache
Beneath our lashes. We are often taught to have our eyes closed, to ignore the weight

Of our eyelids, to let loose in throbbing want: this is the beginning of every prayer.
In the mind, a flock of birds, feathers from an unshakable, shadowy thing,
As if responding: what is the shape of god. We are sustained by faith because
The dark’s eyes are upon us. Example: the nimbus, the cold it brings.

So we search for known hands. Or some familiar flapping. In the dark,
A heightened feeling: the burning of palms intertwined, the rustling
Of down hoisted up to the wind toward the murky depths of gravity. From
Opening one’s eyes, what happens: the dawn a cluster

Of rhythmic wings rises, aiming for distant stars, carrying
The afternoon heat. Brightness dissolves their number and shadow like a comma
In a broken sentence of approaching stars. We will be left sleeping among
The echoes of their wild singing, clutching our every wish.

© Enrique Villasis. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Bernard Capinpin. All rights reserved.

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