My first reaction: surprise followed by the utmost joy. And then surprise again. And then joy. I will never forget the day Dana Gioia called to tell me the good news. It was nine p.m. on a Thursday. I thought he was calling to ask for the phone number of one of my fellow writers. I think I said "Oh my God" a thousand times. The money is one thing -- it's a way toward writing, toward writing more often and with more focus. But the best part is that it is an invitation to join a community of poets and writers who think seriously about writing and its influence on the world. I thank the NEA most for that gracious generosity.
"Nor do I know the ways of birds clearly"
Athena to Telemachus
The day before my father died, a bird
flew in my sister's house through the back door,
open just to relieve the heat. He unfurled
his wings so quickly-all black feather,
flinging them at ceilings, breaking for the wall.
I opened a window to let him out
but the bird missed, instead hit the sill,
spun toward the ground, thrashed about
on the floor, finished his ranting.
Now still, it revealed color, broken star
sparkled starling, red and blue tinted wing.
We dared not touch it, afraid of flutter.
It wasn't a premonition, just air
blown in from chaos, powerless as prayer.
Spork "The Unlikely Origin of the Species" Summer 2004
Nicole Walker's poems and creative nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, Spork, Bellingham Review, The Colorado Review, New American Writing, Fence, Seneca Review, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, Crab Orchard Review, and Ninth Letter, among other journals. She received her PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Utah and currently teaches as an Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Photo courtesy of the author