“Bird Chooses to Make a Habitat of Heart”

“Give me back / my heart, beautiful bird. Mistake me for an open window.”

Impossible Archetype
Issue 9
29 March 2021

Nominated: Pushcart Prize

A response to unrequited love based on passage 199 from Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.

In the “Elements of Craft” class I took that unexpectedly set me on the path to becoming a poet in my forties, we read Maggie Nelson’s lyric essay/prose poem/creative nonfiction masterpiece Bluets. The book’s short and numbered essays were building blocks to my understanding of literary writing.

In Bluets, Nelson frequently responds to the work and words of other artists and philosophers while contemplating the color blue, and these contemplations often relate to her own experiences. At one point in the book, she addresses a beloved after the end of their relationship and the possibility that if they meet again in the future “it will feel as if nothing ever happened between us,” though “this seems unimaginable” to her. Nelson then recalls how Leonard Cohen said in an interview that he doesn’t remember the details of the relationship that led him to write his love triangle song “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Nelson’s next essay in the book responding to this revelation has stayed with me ever since I first read it:

199. For to wish to forget how much you loved someone—and then, to actually forget—can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.”

Maggie Nelson, Bluets (Wave Books, 2019, Tenth Anniversary Edition)

A few years later, I tried responding to this image of a bird taking up residence in a heart with a poem of my own. It took several drafts, critiques and encouragement from Reneé Bibby and classmates at The Writers Studio Tucson, an encouraging tiered rejection from Ben Townley-Canning of fourteen poems, and key insights by fellow writer and poet Janelle Drumwright who helped me land that last line and image, before the poem finally came together in its final form. It is an honor that Mark Ward, the editor of Impossible Archetype, accepted the finished poem for issue 9. I am proud of this poem and grateful for the help and recognition.

Tom Maxedon, host:
“National Poetry Month Part 1—The Tucson Episode”
Word (KJZZ 91.5 FM), season 5, episode 4
01 April 2021

During my first appearance on KJZZ Phoenix’s “Word” podcast, hosted by Tom Maxedon, I talked about the Tucson Poetry Festival and our first January fundraising workshops. He also asked me about my job at HiRISE. At the end of the interview, he asked me to read a poem, and I chose to read “Bird Chooses to Make A habitat of Heart.

2021 Tucson Poetry Festival Open Mic
18 April 2021

A couple weeks later, I read the poem again during the 2021 Tucson Poetry Festival open mic. The event was recorded and is available to watch on YouTube or embedded below. I start reading about 18 minutes and 35 seconds in.

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