Bird of Paradise

Joe Woodward

I am going to empty my mind
The way you do
Your wheel barrel
Of red bark
In the front yard
A mound under
The banana tree
Two between
The yellow lantanas 

You’ve always been embarrassed by
The bare dirt patches
For which summer
Isn’t entirely to blame
Though you shouldn’t be
Don’t you remember
The old woman
Out for a walk 

Who came to our front door
To say she loved
Our wild garden
And its whimsy
How she pointed to
The wild bunches of oregano
Between the rocks
The bird of paradise
Hiding the trash


Author’s Commentary: Of course, we hear voices, poets, and see things. What a delight! I write in the early darkness of morning when it’s quiet inside and out. I see things and remember and sometimes understand the course of life in a different way. “Bird of Paradise” is the philosophical and metaphorical melded to the concrete—our garden in the house in California where we’ve lived for 25 years, where we’ve raised our children. Like our lives, the garden is noble and grand, small and practical—the Bird of Paradise hides the trash! I admire, in reading and writing, all the Janes—Jane Kenyon, Jane Hirshfield, Jane Taylor and so on.  


Joe Woodward is the author of ALIVE INSIDE THE WRECK: A Biography of Nathanael West, O/R Books, New York. A two-time winner of a Los Angeles Press Club Award, his poetry and fiction has appeared in Carve, Passages North, Notre Dame Review and elsewhere. He received an MFA from Brooklyn College and currently lives and works in Claremont, California.