Sarah Ruden is a poet, translator, essayist, and popularizer of Biblical linguistics. A collection of her poetry, Other Places (William Waterman Publications, 1995, later distributed by HarperCollins) won the South African Central News Agency Literary Award, and her poems appear in The National Review and religious periodicals.
"The Marsh Birds"
by Sarah Ruden
I try to sense that weary flood of light
The day the birds are coming through the air.
A certainty now moves along their flight:
There is no smell of water anywhere.
Below, a stretch of houses like a rash
Is driving them to somewhere south of mad.
They’re filled with reeks of diesel, rot and ash,
And emptied of the only plan they had.
Sometimes, here in my kitchen in the city,
Climbing the stairs, or on the street at dawn,
I glimpse them, in an agony of pity.
It passes, as the birds themselves pass on.
It’s human nature not to grasp a thing,
Not one soft creature fallen in our fall.
Imagine Mercy past imagining:
He’ll bring them with Him, if He comes at all.
© 2015 by National Review, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
Sarah Ruden was born in rural Ohio and raised in the United Methodist Church. She is a “convinced Friend” or Quaker convert of twenty years’ standing. She holds a Ph.D. in Classical Philology from Harvard University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. She has taught Latin, English, and writing at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Cape Town, and has been a tutor for the South African Education and Environment Project, an education-enrichment nonprofit in Cape Town. She was a scholar in residence for three years at Yale Divinity School and a Guggenheim fellow, and is now a visiting scholar at Brown University.