Grouse Song

In many traditions, the grouse is a symbol of the spiral dance to the heart of mystery. Here she is also an offering to my own limping, arthritic joints.

Grouse spins inward, dances
the one-wing limp-dance –

the hunched, knee-favoring,
stiff-hip-lurching two-step.

Round and round she dances
dragging a wing, a thumb joint,

and the dragged part, flightless,
makes a spiral in the dust –

a whorl, a shell-shape, an ear.
What you must follow

is not the bright chest exposed
to arrows but the dragged

wing, the lurch, the dark thing
hidden, which you thought dead.

There is the pivot, the way in,
the still place where she falls

down and down, until
she touches where flying cannot go.

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  1. Ruth, how beautiful! I remember getting a grouse card once when I pulled a medicine card and thinking what a dowdy bird that was, not majestic like a hawk or eagle. You have taken something we might think of as plain and ordinary and made it magical. Lisa

  2. a brilliant poem Ruth. The poem is mystical, mythic and as I read it feminist. You make of the bird’s dance– a feigning of vulnerability to give offspring time to take cover– beautiful images of going into one’s depths for self renewal. I’m reminded of Mrs. Ramsey who when she’s given all she can to husband, children, friends and neighbors, goes down into her dark wooly depths where no one can reach her.

    1. Thank you so much, Judy! I love being compared with my favorite character in my favorite Virginia Woolf book!

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