Birds of a Feather: Poetry & Art
Stefano Unterthiner, Albatrosses
He thinks one time he spotted
a frigate bird by the cove, way
off course, but maritime winds
might pull anything his way.
He shows me where he saw
the mandarin duck, the albatross,
though all I see are gulls that may
be terns. When we go to the site
of the famous painting, a woman
dragging herself home through grain,
the place is so charged we stay
quiet and listen as wind parts
the descendants of her grass
and we breathe in salt and pine,
and then I see him point: above us
two birds, a pair, circle together
on a kettle of air, and they seem
to acknowledge each other, dip a wing
in deference or salute, white heads
and tails giving them away, and I see
the sky as he does: how anything
might fly our way in time.
Josie Morway, Rhymes with How and Comes Before Then
Whatever happens over there, on the island
across the bay—gulls noisy over a fish
and louder still when a raven comes in,
then apoplectic when an eagle stops by—
all that seems quiet
by the time it drifts up to me
through a breeze ruffling an aspen
and sanitized through binoculars.
Although we all fear death,
we’re still curious to know
what’s on the other side—
black nothingness? Fire?
Streets of gold and light?
I lie awake all night
just thinking about it,
while outside in the tree
the owl’s eyes are fixed
on the shadows, waiting
for something small to move.
Self Portrait as Eastern Phoebe Sitting on Her Nest
I know what moves inside this shed:
mice, track of moonlight, a bustle of breeze.
The dog senses my anxiety but the two cats taste
my heart racing under these wings.
My anger and my fear smell like the tractor’s gasoline.
The hatchlings under my breast squirm. For them,
from rafter to floor is a fall like the call of the owl’s claws.
I count time by the lengthening of the clematis vine.
Chipmunks scurry under the floorboards and know
when the fox trots near. Each day’s threat is the closing
of the shed’s doors. Only this birch tree understands how I am
deeply rooted and still able to fly.
Five Hawk Day: I-74
On gray days such as these a veil of frozen mist
covers this flat land where white fills the air like dreams
of lost sailors—their empty sails, ships passing
in a fog—small towns with their water towers
appear then are gone like so many vanished hopes.
I don’t need to search the trees for birds of prey.
They come and wait beside the frozen roadways,
perched on wire and fence like wisdom in a land
of wandering fools, talons of ice gripping frigid metal
with some cold patience my frantic hours could use.
Bright days, a dozen or more feathered shamans—signs
or fences grasped like opportunities about to slip away.
When only those bent on good or bad are about,
two or three raptors watch this stretch of frozen road.
But today it is a five-hawk day: two red tails a mile apart,
a kestrel hovering above an icy ditch. (The one I do not count—
dead beside the road, poor wing rising from the shoulder
of the highway on gusts of frigid air as each car passes).
A pair of osprey near the river—they disappear into the clouds
above, then plunge into the bitter, indifferent water below.
[previously published in Stimulus Respond]
Walton Ford, The Red Kite
LONDON, KY. (AP) – Police say a baby has died in eastern Kentucky after a 9-year-old tripped and dropped the infant.
Because there are no proportions to death. Kenneth Patchen, “The Fox”
All day long I’ve watched them, precarious
at the edge of the windowsill: the mother
and her squabs—the nest a flat pad of grasses
on a four-inch ledge littered with the excrement
of three birds over two weeks. The fledglings’
beaks are as long as their mother’s now;
but their skulls, covered with down, seem small
in comparison, dark against her mourning
gray. They stretch their wings, delicate
as a newborn’s shoulder blades, lately feathered
and untried. She coddles them as they pick at her
breast, then nod in sleep, their little heads
bobbing like drowsing children.
A black death
descends with claw and beak—a caw!—a crow
dives toward the nest. Then the falling away
of one baby, that frantic scrabbling at the air
and the disappearing out of sight. Not yet
strong enough to fly: the breathless tumbling
through space as the watchful god of sparrows
and numbered hairs turns away. For one moment,
every bird must be there – hanging on a breath,
then gaining potential and height. But hope
is a feathered thing that drops into the pit
of my stomach, for I find nothing on the ground
below, too many long, sad stories down.
[previously published in Poetry Quarterly]
Ilya Zomb, Reminiscence of Morning Awakening
& when you think you’re at an end of it
you’re not. Basically semi-
hysterically at that point
in the purple-striped zebra shop
or in the Piazza or the gallery
the most expensive photo ever sold!
(Some kind of measuring stick)
to sink into the carpet in Mui Mui
considering the mannequins with vase
protectors instead of heads, I thought
of the woman in EZ Pawn, wet perm
in front of the beached flamingos
their one-legged stakes wiped out
it’s the things in front of you you
can’t see, like applying jumper cables
like CPR, then walking back to the store to
return them, wait a minute, what
is the guy going to think? How many times
this week…? Could wear a disguise
I say, but you are not
a disguisable person, mostly
sweat rises where skin touches with no
warning or advisory: but those aren’t real
flamingos at the Flamingo either, why
would they be we say, why wouldn’t
they be we say
[previously published in Pink Cover Zine, issue 4, “South,” 2019. (Australia).]
Kevin Sloan, Flamingo
Even Miracles Begin With Desire
for Keith Taylor
It’s been weeks with no hummingbird.
The feeder’s full, hanging near the orchid.
There’s nothing to do but watch and wait,
hoping the tiny bird gets the word
that nectar’s here and it’s free.
It’s like life: somewhere miracles did
and still do occur. Consider yourself blessed
when you find one or one finds you.
That’s when the unexplained, what’s hid-
den from view, what’s lost, is seen.
As if by request
a hummingbird darts by the feeder,
hovers, drinks, and flies away.
The whole thing takes ten seconds or less,
time enough to bow, bend a knee.
A sampling of more bird art at EIL:
Other links you might like: