A Bird at the Leather Mill
The crane stood in the center of the floor
Of the mill, lost and tentative. Its bill
Looked like a fancy awl with a down handle.
It wore its wings as though they were a shawl
Thrown on an idiot. At first the men
Imagined that a person had strolled in
Like a green salesman or a debutante.
And when the crane walked toward the loading
The men on tip-toes prowled with laundry bags
To grab and hold it like a secret hope
In a place of exile. Later on, at lunch,
They took turns, each explaining what he'd do
If it came back. They bragged, or chaffed, aware
The thing was lost, though never saying so.
1995; originally printed in Illinois Review.
permission of the author.