December 20–26, 2021
Sharon DeYoung lives in Brooklyn with her fiancée and two cats. She is the winner of Poem of the Month honors for December 2021 at the Brooklyn Poets Yawp. Prior to moving to NYC, she lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years. She enjoys music from almost all genres, Latin and African dance, karaoke, and arts and crafts. This past summer, DeYoung was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Carlie Hoffman’s workshop The Excruciating on poetry and suffering.
Komorebi: For Clyde
The storefronts are closed—
the sidewalks empty.
I wear disposable surgical masks
because to buy a reusable one
seems a concession
to the plague never ending.
My mind returns to a year ago
when an escaped parrot
captured the neighborhood,
and to words in other languages
that conjure the ineffable
in a way that this merchant’s tongue,
in all its streamlined practicalities,
is woefully unable.
I want to think if I’d lost it all
I could still be moved
to hope anointed tears
by the splendor
light filtering through the leaves;
shadows passing underneath.
A bird on the wing
wending above and below
a sun-struck canopy.
I want to say
if I’d lost it all
I could still feel free—
To see that bird,
the Tanimbar cockatoo’s
white as sugar
down the corridors of Brooklyn.
Taken from an Indonesian
struck down from his nest,
stolen from his parents.
This gorgeous living dinosaur named Clyde,
his majesty held hostage
on a sagging row-house porch
while sidekick Bonnie
preens herself to death
in a joyless cage
where their wings can’t stretch.
But Clyde knows the locks
and how to undo them.
Escaped, Clyde is the rock star
of the neighborhood.
A pre-A/C time erupts
where we hang out windows
to follow his daily migration
from sun-soaked fire escape
to children’s playground,
arriving just briefly enough to strut
and clutch his prized native fruits,
maybe enough time to record
a quick YouTube video!
His crest spanning out
like a proud pompadour
on the rare occasion
we’ve met his pleasure—
oblivious to the human hopes
in his wild wingspan.
After the first frost
we feared the worst
when suddenly I saw him glide by
in the gathering light
of a muted sunrise.
I joyously posted on the neighborhood blog
the miracle of the morning—
Clyde lives on!
That morning a towel was thrown over him unawares
from his favorite fire escape
where he climbed
upside down and sideways
and thrilled us all.
He nearly took off a finger
but we all cheered.
The day he was claimed—
Clyde was free!
But I’d like to think
I could remember
as I died
the last time I saw Clyde
stream through the hallway
in the sky.
The whitest sand of the whitest beach—
untouched by hunger,
untouched by cold.
That the beauty of a Japanese word
could speak to me
like how I held my hand
when I wrote it
While Clyde has been caught
and has a bigger cage in which to fly
he isn’t truly free:
Clyde also longs
Perhaps Clyde will be caught
in a shaft of light,
In spring, the tree below the fire escape where he frolicked
Tell us about the making of this poem.
Last year in the thick of COVID I was very isolated and felt trapped inside, and I started to think about a time when the whole neighborhood came together to save this escaped parrot Clyde and how much joy he brought to each day. I thought of a Japanese word I had written in a calligraphy class that captured the beauty of the natural world and just started writing and trying to tie all that together.
What are you working on right now?
I want to get a collection of poems together to send out to journals—I still have a lot of edits to make, particularly with punctuation, which has always been a sore spot with me.
What’s a good day for you?
Waking up, having my coffee with a cat on my lap, being in the sun, getting some exercise …
What brought you to Brooklyn?
I moved to NYC when my job transferred here, after I’d lived in LA for fifteen years. Initially I lived in Sunnyside, Queens, which I really liked, but we wanted to live in Brooklyn.
Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?
I’ve lived in Ditmas Park for about ten years now. It’s close to Prospect Park and there are a lot of beautiful, historic Victorian homes (some date from the ’20s) along streets lined with sycamore trees so it feels less congested than Manhattan and other parts of the city. There are also a lot of great restaurants and bars with live music.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.
The experience with Clyde was a really unique Brooklyn experience—seeing this bird climbing the fire escape across from my apartment building, and so many people following his daily adventures and joining together to save him so he didn’t freeze in the winter. And neighbors catching him after so much effort on the first really cold winter day was wonderful.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
I consider Brooklyn Poets my poetry community. I love the Yawp readings, hearing other poets, and the workshop I took with Carlie Hoffman was amazing—there were so many talented poets in that class; it was a real joy. I’d like to have a poetry buddy where we share our poems and give each other constructive criticism.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
I’m just coming back to poetry after twenty years and really haven’t read any new poets since college. I’m being introduced to current poets through Brooklyn Poets.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
I didn’t really have any mentors, though I feel I’ve made some important new connections in workshops and other online poetry events.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
I’ve been reading the poetry of Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Hardy. Two of my favorite authors are Mario Vargas Llosa and Russell Banks, and I absolutely loved The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh. The short-story collection In the Country by Filipina American writer Mia Alvar was fantastic, as are the short stories of Canadian writer Mavis Gallant.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
I want to read more Emily Dickinson, Denise Levertov, and Coleridge, among so many others, and I want to discover the poetry of the present day. As far as books, I want to dive into short-story collections from writers all over the world. I’d like to read more Jack London, the autobiography of Charlie Chaplin, and travel writing.
Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?
I have trouble finishing books lately. Either I read a book very quickly or I don’t finish it but always hope I’ll return to it. I tend to discover new books by perusing the shelves of bookstores and libraries, reading reviews, and I get recommendations from my parents. I used to write in the margins when I was in college but now I sometimes mark favorite passages and list the page numbers on the flyleaf so I can go back to them. I collect and read physical books and I also read digital books.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
I’d like to write a sonnet.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Ideally, I’d be holed up in a hotel somewhere with the blinds closed—no distractions. If it had a nice pool that would be a plus.
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
I love DUMBO. The park along the water has lovely landscaping, and somehow, even though it’s a narrow strip of land, there are many little winding paths that feel like a secret garden you can get lost in. You can look out on the water and walk the strand and people-watch—the last time I was there was the first nice spring day and I saw two couples taking wedding photos and two quinceañera celebrations. And there are great restaurants and shops and the powerHouse Arena bookstore.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate the wild bouquet,
And from what I gather you may freely take,
For every earthly palpitation moves in me as good as it might move through you.
It’s a place in the city where you can still get lost in nature at Prospect Park and of course Coney Island is a blast and there are so many other neighborhoods to explore that all have their own personalities.