There was a man who thought
the soul had weight,
so he put dying people on a scale and weighed them,
just before and after they died,
and what he found is that the instant people die
they are 21 grams lighter than they were before.
Exactly. Every time.
An enormous scale, a body on one side,
weights on the other.
Even a breeze could cause a wobble.
A mere breath, the man who stood so firm,
a mere shadow, the man passing by.
When the researchers set up the nets
between the trees, and caught the birds they caught,
behind us, in our forest,
they untangled each one, carefully, making sure
not to damage the wings—warblers and chickadees
and thrushes—they were wearing gloves as they did this,
but even then they could feel the beating
of those tiny hearts, and the warmth of those feathery bodies—
and then they weighed each bird, hanging it
by the feet from a small scale before letting it go.
The one I remember is a Wilson’s Warbler,
a lovely pale yellow, with a jaunty black cap.
I closed it in my fist, but gently, hardly
crushing the feathers.
Then I opened my fist and it shot away,
a yellowy flash, back into the trees.
from You Never Know, my new book of poetry
forthcoming, this fall, from Stephen F. Austin State University Press