Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism


I first saw them at the walled city
of Avila, the German woman beside me
utterly ecstatic. It has been my dream
to see storks flying above the walls
of Avila.
Could those really be storks?
Those leggy buffoons had this much grace?

Not that I'd question any source of grace,
especially combined with such a wing capacity.
I finally understood about the fabled storks:
I'd love to think such creatures had brought me,
set me down softly on some gold, medieval walls
and left me on my own to wake and dream.

And they did bring off a miracle: a realized dream!
What had my woman done to deserve such grace?
Though, who knows? Maybe storks on Avila's walls
are as rare as pigeons in New York City.
Does it matter? They're the stuff of dreams to me
though I can't say I thought much about those storks

till last spring in the Galilee (Africa's storks'
layover to Europe) when the woman and her dream
returned: a stork flew directly over me,
all beak, forward motion and utter grace.
We were near Afulah, an ugly city,
good falafel, but no medieval walls—

just as well, since, in those parts, city walls
are embedded with shards of glass. Alighting storks
would be injured, like the birds in the Holy City,
casualties in the longtime war on dream.
You'd have thought (you'd have been wrong) that God's grace
doesn't require backup from an army.

But the truth is I was glad to see that army
in Jerusalem with my kids, climbing those walls.
That's where we saw the glass. (No sign of grace.)
But how did I get here? Wasn't I talking about storks,
my German woman, her captured dream
and not the battleground, the Holy City?

Why must I always talk atrocity?
Who said anything about an army?
This is a poem about dream.
Let's leave behind Avila's exquisite walls;
they're not the only summer home of storks.
I've yet to tell my own tale of grace.

But still, there's background material: they found grace
in the desert, the people left over by the sword.
(Don't worry. I'm getting back to storks.)
The way we wandered, dodging local priest and army
and probably hit Avila, before more Eastern ghetto walls
crammed us in, with parchment, ink and dream.

Say what you like about us. We can dream
and we can also, I've seen it, locate grace
without—you'll forgive me—the shard-embedded walls
of a scarred, salted, wrangled-over city.
In fact, every year, as the breeze grew balmy
we did it beneath chimneyfuls of storks.

I have it on authority. For us, storks
are the stuff of summer chimneys, not of dream.
It's true. My cousin Beka told me.
(I was visiting Chicago, where she'd landed by the grace
of God—via Gura Mura, Trasnistria, Tel Aviv, Panama City—
first horrors, then miracles, renewals.)

She'd hear them stirring through her bedroom walls.
Nesting in her chimney; two great storks
(this was before the Nazis overran her little city
when she still had the luxury of dream…)
charmed her with their unexpected grace,
their outspread wings' impulsive alchemy.

I can't explain why this should mean so much to me.
Surely, my grandma, through her childhood's walls,
would also awaken to this stroke of grace:
all the way from Africa, two storks.
Perhaps it was of them she used to dream
at her machine in her sweatshop in her new, shrill city:

storks gracing the preposterous walls
of the newly dreamed-up skyscrapers of New York City
and dangling from their beaks: the likes of me.

j a c q u e l i n e   o s h e r o w
s a l t   l a k e   c i t y,   u t a h

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