Folding Paper Cranes
Until now, I hadn’t selected a book of the month for May because I wasn’t sure what to pick. I’ve read a handful of decent books the past few weeks, but nothing jumped out. Then, in the bookstore the other day, I found Folding Paper Cranes by Leonard Bird. Bird was in the military in the 1950s and ordered to huddle in the trenches at the Nevada Test Site while the government detonated nuclear bombs. He later died of cancer from the radiation. It’s a thoughtful memoir, a mix of his poetry and prose, plus illustrations from his wife.
He opens with a poem titled “Mourning Dove.” After describing a long wait for the KA-BOOM, he writes: I placed my hands upon the ledge and twisted from the trench . . . my outstretched hand grasped a soft, spastic form . . . . A torn morning dove flopped, twitched from spasm to spasm, its wings singed black. . . . The dove’s melted eyes oozed gray pus. And from a throat that had sung Man awake since the dawn of time bubbled a faint “squwik squwik squwik.”
I don’t know how to explain my book picks. A handful of people have told me my choices are too depressing. I guess I am moved by the serious stuff, I am drawn to unique voices, and I am interested in how people find hope in despair. Also, in this case, it was a treat to read a local author. (Since I’m a nomad, the term “local” is relative . . . last month it meant California, next week it’ll be Virginia, but right now it means Colorado.) I loved reading Bird’s descriptions of Durango’s stunning landscape (he eventually became a professor and taught English at Ft. Lewis College). Southwest Colorado is beautiful. In the past week alone, I’ve witnessed a purple sunset, a red sunset, a yellow sunset, and four shooting stars.