Crane and Wave

Whether the crane wife
was human or celestial,
I do not know,
arriving as she did
in a storm
at a lonesome weaver’s doorstep
to cook his rice and boil his tea.

When his strength failed,
or when his sales slowed
(the details depend
on the storyteller),
she set about
putting air in his sails,
shut the door to his workshop;
there, transformed into her true shape,
she plucked feathers from her wings.
She was the shuttle now
all angles and movement
as she stepped into his loom.
Of course, he didn’t know
what it cost her.
When he realized,
it was too late.
With her remaining strength,
she flew off.

A true story, I believe.
I see the more familiar version
in my backyard each year
when the mother dove feathers
a nest with down, baring her chest,
feather by feather.

With tragic certainty
we weave ourselves
into the lives of others:
Our gift, a bit of ourselves.
Yes, everything has a cost.
We do what we can
with what we have.
In storms, we let go of deadweight
as we can, bailing water,
inching the Titanic to shore.

But what is life,
if not a hollowing,
a giving up.
As in a Japanese
woodcut of cranes,
it is the deep grooves
in the woodblock
that give life
to cranes in flight
suspended effortlessly
above the wave.

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