Monday, April 13, 2009

Deborah Digges, 1950 - 2009:

"Darwin's Finches"

My mother always called it a nest,
the multi-colored mass harvested

from her six daughters' brushes,
and handed it to one of us

after she had shaped it, as we sat in front
of the fire drying our hair.

She said some birds steal anything, a strand
of spider's web, or horse's mane,

the residue of sheep's wool in the grasses
near a fold

where every summer of her girlhood
hundreds nested.

Since then I've seen it for myself, their genius—
how they transform the useless.

I've seen plastics stripped and whittled
into a brilliant straw,

and newspapers—the dates, the years—
supporting the underweavings.

As tonight in our bed by the window
you brush my hair to help me sleep, and clean

the brush as my mother did, offering
the nest to the updraft.

I'd like to think it will be lifted as far
as the river, and catch in some white sycamore,

or drift, too light to sink, into the shaded inlets,
the bank-moss, where small fish, frogs, and insects

lay their eggs.
Would this constitute an afterlife?

The story goes that sailors, moored for weeks
off islands they called paradise,

stood in the early sunlight
cutting their hair. And the rare

birds there, nameless, almost extinct,
came down around them

and cleaned the decks
and disappeared into the trees above the sea.

Deborah Digges

I didn't know Deborah Digges,had never met her, but I treasured her poetry, so enriched by her keen eye, her deeply reflective mind. I slurped up her memoir, "Stardust Lounge," too. She told it straight about raising her son through adolescence, about what it was really like with a difficult, challenging person, about paying attention to the teen, not the advice books. I didn't know her but whenever I read her forthright work, I feel like I'm with her; feeling the tug of hairbrush, setting the hair-nest free, waiting for a thirteen year old's call.

Here's a link through the Valparaiso Poetry Review of Deborah Digges reading her work just last month in Pasadena for an event co-sponsored by Red Hen Press and Claremont Graduate University.


  1. thanks for the posthumous introduction to Digges, whose books I will now surely read, and good to find you and your blog via facebook.

  2. Hey, so glad you found me! sorry for the delay in posting/replying. Many events, days too short, etc, etc. I think you'll enjoy Deborah's work. Enjoyed your blog... will go back to catch up on your travels and joys.


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