blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Self-Portrait with Eyes Closed

"A glittering constellation . . . that ancient ideogram—
the eye of the future, gazing back."

—Bei Dao, "Answer"


Perched on the cliff side overlooking a black sea,
my wings the color of earth. Body of a bird,
face of a woman. My face turned aside, my blue
eyes closed. Just below me a nest of small white
bodies, my children’s mouths open,
throats the color of blood. The moon
rising over the ocean like a claw caught
in the night sky, hooked to its jaw. Wind
in my feathers. I will not watch the stars watch
me with their gold and distant eyes.


I began this life as a loggerhead, legs flesh-wings.
One morning I dug out of the nest and made
for the tide, shell made of skin, black dots for eyes.
I followed the light out past the breakers, then deep,
lost in the blue, hiding in grasses on the bottom
of the sea. I waited through the Lost Years,
danger everywhere. And I grew.


Out through the shipping channels, swimming the skies
Of ocean. Once I broke the surface and became something
human, came ashore and lived for years in a Lost Land, drawing
shapes in the sand. I made love to nothing,
stars and waves, my son born in pain
made of water and light, and when a ship came,
I gave him away.


The birds came for me as I grew older, my body
growing wan, bones hollow, brown feathers
pushing through my skin—only my face remained
the same. I flew one morning
over unexplored countries, over ships
with their warm lights like constellations
cast over the black water. Ancient now, I settled
on the cliffs, old as the stone
gripped in my taloned feet.

I have watched the night for years
as my children grew, took flight.

Now I turn my woman’s face away
from the stars and their shunning light,
away from the sea.

I close my eyes and wish my wish:
Be. Simply be.  

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