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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 17, 2016.
About this Poem 

“This poem had many meanderings, until it finally declared itself to be this stern recounting of choices, and their consequences, moving from the past to the present, from animal to human, from innocence to immorality.
—Barbara Ras

Opportunity Costs

Thrushes, alert for opportunity,
sleep in winks of thirty seconds or less.

Has Guinness tracked the longest sigh on record
and was it exhaled in exasperation or ecstasy?

In the measure of apothecaries, one scruple
equals twenty grains, a lot of data to debunk.

Four centuries ago a watchmaker set up the first circus
of fleas tied to carts. Since then,

entertainment has changed a lot—explosions, all the rage.
Not long ago whistling in an office could get you fired,

and now who of us blinks at torture taken to the brink
of drowning, not once per body, but a vomitous number

I’m not going to hurt you with, and who asks how often
mouth-to-mouth—the torturer locking lips with the tortured

to revive him for another round. An alarm rings
to wake the thrush for the next

threat, thus serving the species for survival
of the fittest, while in the Situation Room, our best,

fit to kill, compute opportunity costs with the poise
of the guys whose billboards brag, “We buy ugly houses.”

Give me the scale that weighs a whistle, a flea,
the song of a thrush, the sum of pain caused

by people of conscience, people ignoring it.
Is opportunity tired of being missed?

Does it sigh the way we sigh?

Copyright © 2016 Barbara Ras. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Barbara Ras. Used with permission of the author.

Barbara Ras

Barbara Ras

Barbara Ras was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1949, and educated

by this poet

poem

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of

poem
There were feathers and the light that passed through feathers.

There were birds that made the feathers and the sun that made the light.

The feathers of the birds made the air soft, softer

than the quiet in a cocoon waiting for wings,

stiller than the stare of a hooded falcon.

But no falcons in this green