The Thing with Feathers
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tunes without the words—
And never stops—at all—
—Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems, no. 254
Hope is a horny outgrowth
of the heart, a central axis
along which you branch.
Inside, a hollow portion known
as emptiness. And a solid barb-bearing
part called the self, where
contour feathers grow—large, crude,
capable of much flapping. Surrounded
by small stunted hairlike feathers
of soft down, for insulation. When dry,
they leave a waxy powder you polish
each day with your tongue.
You dust yourself off, lick
your plumes, gaudy or plain,
it doesn’t matter. You hold them
in front of you, crooked
like the wing of a swan.