Of Common Grace – by Jennifer Peterson

This poem was chosen for a musical response by our Featured Composer, Sherry Paige.
Music by Sherry Paige – Copyright 2019 Pigg Pen Music

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap.”
Luke 12:24

A cache of millet and black oil sunflower
swings soft in a cedarwood tray, rough-made
and hung for cardinal and nuthatch
low in the sycamore, safe distance from the house.

Further out, ground-scattered by the sheltering hedge
more seed and cracked corn lie
like manna for the shy song sparrows.
On a stone garden wall, a dish of mealworm

waits for bluebirds, nyjer for the goldfinch,
and nearest, on a river birch’s silver,
papery branch hangs a fat suet cake for all,
even the brash starlings, even the gray squirrel.

It is a pleasure to her, knowing
what would please each and laying out
this feast, though the guests come
only when the host has disappeared.

Nature tells them they are prey, that a gaze
means danger. So she keeps inside awhile
and through a window savors their small ways
and voices, their citrine, sapphire, and ruby wings.

They know of hunger and fill their bellies against it.
The canniest among them know of traps.
But neither life nor nature has given them
any notion of a gift.

Jennifer Peterson is a writer working Oxford, Mississippi. She holds an MFA in poetry from Albertus Magnus College, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals including Pembroke Magazine, Cumberland River Review, Apeiron Review, and Image.

Art: Untitled photograph, 2018
Artist Statement: Like the poem, this photograph calls to mind abundance and beauty but also the underlining decay of all things.

Music: Of Common Grace
Composer Statement: I have this picture of an old country home with a very large yard. Just over the fence, perhaps, a pasture. The “she” in this poem is putting out the described goodies for her feathered friends and even the squirrel.  As she finishes her rounds, she retreats inside to watch their pleasure as they discover specific treats for each one of them. The music speaks to the co-mingling of both their pleasure and hers, as the gifts are enjoyed… and the giver requires no nod of thanks save their trills and chirps of delight for full bellies.