Raised in Massachusetts, Tom Heffernan taught at NC State University in the early 1970s and later served in the Poetry in the Schools and the Visiting Artist programs sponsored by the N.C. Arts Council. He has taught writing aboard U.S. Navy ships and literature and writing courses at universities in England and Japan. Some of his publications are listed on the Ploughshares website, http://www.pshares.org. Heffernan currently is an adjunct professor at UNC Pembroke.
SOON IT WILL BE TEN YEARS: Lines Written on Sept. 4, 2011
Now and then, during the last hour,
when I have glanced out the window,
the dove has been there, the same spot
on the same telephone wire,
a shade of gray, scarcely moving.
The color and the bird reminds
and doesn’t remind of a day
when morning broke, from blue to gray.
The dove on the wire is alone.
Uncommon, and odd: every dove
I’ve seen before was with a mate.
And something else I’d seen comes back –
a wire stretched between the towers,
the aerialist walking it
back and forth, the marvel of mind
and skill and maybe luck that wind
or misstep hadn’t plummeted
him headlong down through breathless air,
another singular being.
He chose to occupy his time
doing what he alone could do.
He took a more visible way
than most, who, also, every one,
have one life, one time, that’s their own.
This early September Sunday,
so near to the day of the tenth
year, I pray for those whose bodies,
in desperate courage, not to burn
alive, plummeted; pray for all
who died; and hope for those suffering
loss and memory of loss, that they
have faith love did not die that day.
I look out the window. The dove
has gone, has flown. The words mourning
dove come to mind, and how, native
where accent sounded them alike,
as a boy I had wondered if
the bird’s name wasn’t morning dove.
Now, both feelings are connecting:
I mourn; I’m glad it is morning.
(This poem is previously unpublished.)