Poetry Corner: June/July 2018

Many of you know Francis Fike, Professor Emeritus of English at Hope College, who taught there from 1968-1998. Francis is a keen reader, writer, critic, translator, and lover of poetry. He served as Poetry Editor of Perspectives: Journal of Reformed Thought from 2005-2010. He has also published five books of poetry. The poem below first appeared in the Perspectives Journal. Part of the joy of this poetry corner, for us, is discovering how many fellow Hope Church members have such varied experiences with poetry, and sharing the fruits of those discoveries with you. R&R

Many years ago I came to church on some errand, parked the car and got out. In the southwest corner of the parking lot, there still remained that February day a large pile of slowly diminishing grey snow. Before I turned to go into the church, I saw a bird fly down to a small pool that the melting snow had formed. It was a Mourning Dove, a bird that at that time was in the state news. A group had formed to get the DNR to relist the bird from Songbird to Gamebird status, and thus give hunters one more prey to shoot. There were protests in Lansing against the change. I took this appearance of the dove as a reminder to me to stand up for its protection. Those opposed to the change eventually won, and the addition of Mourning Doves to the hunters’ trophy bags was prevented. The song of the Mourning Dove is the first bird song heard in spring, and the last in summer. Some hear the song to say “Oh, pray for shalom and peace…”

I recorded the experience in a journal, and hoped to write a poem about it, but years passed before I finally was able to do one that was satisfactory. This is the poem based on the journal account, a poem which relates to our current topic of Creation Care.

The Dove by Francis Fike

Here in a parking lot in February
Where snow, piled through the winter, melting in thaw,
Had sent a freshly pulsing tributary
Across the asphalt like a silver claw,
A dove landed, dipped, and drank, wary.

Almost as swift in flight as peregrine
With wings that whisper rhythm as it flies,
Cautiously wild, yet still in cities seen,
This is the Mourning Dove, whose presence vies
For space against construction and machine.

Songbird yet game bird, prey to hunters’ pride,
Preyed on as well by hawk, egg-hungry crow,
This gentle bird has managed to abide
As habitat is lost and cities grow
On lands that we have seized and occupied.

Against the testing threats of time and place
This dove, dipping to sip from pavement pool,
Tempers with peace our noisy crowded space,
Our heedless use of brash technique and tool,
With wilderness refreshment in its grace.