Robin Redbreast

By Stanley Kunitz 1905–2006 Stanley Kunitz
It was the dingiest bird
you ever saw, all the color
washed from him, as if
he had been standing in the rain,
friendless and stiff and cold,
since Eden went wrong.
In the house marked FOR SALE,
where nobody made a sound,
in the room where I lived
with an empty page, I had heard
the squawking of the jays
under the wild persimmons
tormenting him.
So I scooped him up
after they knocked him down,
in league with that ounce of heart
pounding in my palm,
that dumb beak gaping.
Poor thing! Poor foolish life!
without sense enough to stop
running in desperate circles,
needing my lucky help
to toss him back into his element.
But when I held him high,
fear clutched my hand,
for through the hole in his head,
cut whistle-clean . . .
through the old dried wound
between his eyes
where the hunter’s brand
had tunneled out his wits . . .
I caught the cold flash of the blue
unappeasable sky.

Stanley Kunitz, “Robin Redbreast” from The Collected Poems: Stanley Kunitz, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the Literary Estate of Stanley Kunitz.

Source: The Collected Poems: Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2000)

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Poet Stanley Kunitz 1905–2006

Subjects Death, Nature, Pets, Animals

 Stanley  Kunitz

Biography

Stanley Kunitz became the tenth Poet Laureate of the United States in the autumn of 2000. Kunitz was ninety-five years old at the time, still actively publishing and promoting poetry to new generations of readers. In the New York Times Book Review, Robert Campbell noted that Kunitz's selection as poet laureate—the highest literary honor in America—"affirms his stature as perhaps the most distinguished living American poet." . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Nature, Pets, Animals

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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