Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2015  Vol. 14 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Bird Watchers

As if I’d stripped at a wake,
when I came around the elderberry

humming this morning, I drew
outraged stares, hisses

from the flock of ladies waiting
in the blind for the Rough-winged Swallow.

Reminding me of the time I mistyped
“prostate” for “prostrate,” describing

funeral practices of Tibetan monks.
It had been a rough-winged day—

out of jelly, a blouse with salad dressing
stains, a small maestro who burped

the alphabet all the way to school.
I’ll confess, caught in their crosshairs

I didn’t think of an apology, but of pelting
them with a slingshot, causing

a flurry of life-lists and sensible, folding hats,
annoyed by their silent, rubber shoes.

On the drive to the wildlife sanctuary,
a voice on the radio described how aerial

maps are being drawn, lists and charts
of where our bombs are meant to drop.

I parked my car between the painted lines.
I double knotted my shoes.

What can a human animal do,
but worship plumage? Who

wouldn’t want to come up out of the dark water,
as Mark says, and see the Spirit

descending like a dove? We’ve reached
a standoff. Have I disrupted

their avian meditation or they my trudging
prayer? So often fear and anger

feel the same these days, watching
my own flutter as through binoculars.

Watch from the Old English
Wacian: to be awake, to be watchful.

When my grandmother couldn’t
hold it steady anymore, I did

her lipstick for her. I’m sorry, we both said,
when Forever Red feathered

her paper cheek. Next, I’ll watch
my mother-in-law go. Monk, dove,

there’s always more humility
to take. Should I beg

them to teach me tarsus, albumen,
applause of wings, so I can sit beside

someone, my eyes on the long legs
of the Snowy Egret, the shy

Brown Bittern, a furious little
Kinglet defending her open space.  end  

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