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By Joseph Campana

All evening I hunted

the bird that wanted

a cage of glass,

here where cemetery

slides into creek, fronting

what was once the largest

indoor leather mill in the world.

There the skins gathered

for cleansing, coloring,

scraping, shipping off.


It closed three years after

a lone sparrow set up camp

behind the only desk

in the only full-serve

service station left in town

where, from four to seven

nightly one summer,

I blackened the pages

of books with my thumbs.


Whatever it sought there—

thumping its frightened body

against glass, into cabinets

or out to the bays

scrubbed raw with gasoline

where the broken waited

to be raised up, hosed off,

fastened together in hope

of coughing to life again—

whatever it sought was not a dollar

slipped through a window cracked

because patronage was right

for the aging ladies of August to provide

from Chryslers cool in the sun.


There was nothing to be found

in books or boxes of parts.

And the tools hanging from pegs

were as useless as my hands,

which could not patch together

those straggling conveyances

any more than I could

with a tattered broom

batter the bird to freedom

as I swung at fluttering terror

as I sought with useless devices

some fortune reposed

in corners of grease and dust.


Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2002)

  • Activities
  • Living
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Joseph Campana
Poet and Renaissance Literature scholar Joseph Campana spent his childhood in the Adirondack foothills of Johnstown, New York. A poet and scholar who has published essays on Spenser, Shakespeare, early modern poetics, and the history of sexuality, Campana is a regular contributor to the Kenyon Review’s blog. Campana holds a BA from Williams College, MA degrees in English Literature from both University of Sussex and Cornell University, and a PhD in English Literature, also from Cornell University. See More By This Poet

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