John Updike
Bird Caught in My Deer Netting

The hedge must have seemed as ever,

seeds and yew berries secreted beneath,

small edible matter only a bird’s eye could see,


mixed with the brown of shed needles and earth—

a safe quiet cave such as nature affords the meek,

entered low, on foot, the feathered head

alert to what it sought, bright eyes darting

everywhere but above, where net had been laid.


Then, at some moment mercifully unwitnessed,

an attempt to rise higher, to fly,

met by an all but invisible limit, beating wings

pinioned, deep instinct denied.  O panicky

thrashing and flutter, in daylight and air,

their freedom impossibly close, all about!


How many starved hours of struggle resumed

in fits of life’s irritation did it take

to seal and sew shut the berry-bright eyes

and untie the tiny wild knot of a heart?

I cannot know, discovering this wad

of junco-fluff, weightless and wordless

in its corner of netting deer cannot chew through

nor gravity-defying bird bones break.

Found In Volume 34, No. 01
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John Updike
About the Author

John Updike is the author of more than thirty novels and collections of short stories, two of which—Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest—won Pulitzer Prizes.