The Continuous Desire to Be Reborn,
this morning’s window of sparrow—
too many to count, though they count me
in their chorusing now they’ve begun—
And these little grace notes are my start,
syllables I use to call down stars—
How many constellations can a man
discover when he opens both his hands,
fingers he never knew until prayer stretched them.
Back to the sparrows. They’re still at it, aren’t they?
It didn’t take me much to become
one of them . I started to warble, I was taken in,
invited and invited, taken in, invited—
How calm it is here now, before the day.
My winds and I stand, waiting, for the dawn.
When the sun comes, first light between the trees
I’ll have to start to give it a new name,
my breath a little song, mending, breaking,
lyrics fitted to the scores of morning birds.
We won’t ask how long our medley lasts, will we?
My signature written on this morning’s wind
writes and re-writes as if I could carve
my name on the frieze of immortality
beside Keats, his own writ-in-water.
A native of the Midwest and a graduate of Shimer College, the University of Chicago and the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he received his Ph.D., Peter Cooley has lived over half his life in New Orleans; he was a Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University from 1975-2018. He has published eleven books of poetry, ten of them with Carnegie Mellon. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Republic and in over one hundred anthologies. His eleventh book of poetry The One Certain Thing appeared in 2021. Cooley was an Atlantic Younger Poet, the Robert Frost Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the recipient of an ATLAS grant from the state of Louisiana and of the Marble Faun Poetry Award from the Faulkner Society in New Orleans. He was Poetry Editor of NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW from 1970-2000 and is currently Poetry. Editor of CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE, Professor Emeritus at Tulane University and former Louisiana Poet Laureate.