The House Gift

By Joanie Mackowski b. 1963 Joanie Mackowski
Egg-white house, old
ache in the rafters,
small as a button but
yearning for zero:
a sparrow parts the chimney
and veers for my face.
I wanted my nevers
again, my immaculate
touch-down to the durable
granite of love too
heavy to move: this
gift, implacable
bird's-eye sorrow
reared from the original
fairy tale's page—
I don't like it. I offered
no signature, my nature
altered, and I'm over
my hurricane. Rocking
room to room, this bird
threatens my gravity,
threaded through like a pearl
from the evening's stem.
Didn't I break all
eighty-eight bones
of my compass, my wingspan
spun from my awkwardness?
This bird returns
to the shell with monstrous
wings, wings clumsy as shovels
in a fist of dirt. It's covered
with ashes, sloughing off
in my hair, brown
tumor bulged upside
down on the floor
to meet the applause:
this blessing's too
unwieldy. But open
one door, one terrible
goodbye, hello—the sparrow
flings like a shout for the trees.

Source: Poetry (November 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

View this poem in its original format

November 2004
 Joanie  Mackowski


Joanie Mackowski’s collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). She received a BA from Wesleyan University, was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and received a PhD from the University of Missouri. A professor at Cornell University, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She is the winner of the 2003 Kate Tufts . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Home Life, Nature, Relationships, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Imagery, Metaphor

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.