American Life in Poetry: Column 127


Poet Marianne Boruch of Indiana finds a bird’s nest near her door. It is the simplest of discoveries, yet she uses it to remind us that what at first seems ordinary, even “made a mess of,” can be miraculously transformed upon careful reflection.


I walked out, and the nest
was already there by the step.  Woven basket
of a saint
sent back to life as a bird
who proceeded to make
a mess of things.  Wind
right through it, and any eggs
long vanished.  But in my hand it was
intricate pleasure, even the thorny reeds
softened in the weave.  And the fading
leaf mold, hardly
itself anymore, merely a trick
of light, if light
can be tricked.  Deep in a life
is another life.  I walked out, the nest
already by the step.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 1996 by Marianne Boruch, whose most recent book of poetry is “Poems: New and Selected,” Oberlin College Press, 2004. Reprinted from “A Stick That Breaks And Breaks,” Oberlin College Press, 1997, with permission of the author. First published in the journal “Field.” Introduction copyright © 2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.