A few years ago, I walked our neighbor’s dog, Cocoa, while they were on vacation. Early one morning we jogged to the park near my house, and all over the grass we saw these strange white birds, dozens of them. I had never seen such birds before. I let go the leash, and Cocoa hurled herself at the flock, which lifted off the ground in a great swoop of white wings. This past year, we had a huge Norfolk Island Pine tree just beyond our balcony, which was home to colorful little lorikeets, large magpies, and even bigger crows. All these birds managed to flutter and peck their way into some of my poems, and I offer three this month.
Above the Circling Birds
The park is empty except for a man
in blue shorts splashing through mud
and strange white birds skimming
puddles, undisturbed by the noise of dogs.
They say if you walk alone, an angel
could whisper to you, reward for quiet
contemplation. But what if she has starved
and spent a long night in someone’s
tangled hair? Then what kind of song
will bring you back to light? Beneath your
feet, a river pushes downward toward
a flaming core. Even if words were rungs
on a ladder you could climb, even if
the dripping trees you pass harbored
dryads with faces green as meadow mist
at dawn, even then your feet could find
no purchase on something airy and symbolic
as a sign hung in clouds above the circling birds.
The Language of Birds
There was a pasture beside a dark
wood, and a small house
half hidden in shadows of trees.
There was a garden and a ladder
and a coil of rope.
The screen door locked
with a hook
and eye, and the rooms
smelled of blankets and wooden
walls. We lived there when we
knew how to speak the language of birds.
We could call a long way,
lose voices in the wind.
across the sky, white bodies
filled with the joy of flight.
They shared with us their hunger
and the lightness
of their bones.
We sat on the cold ground,
bare arms wrapped around our knees.
We sat on stones and told them
stories about owls
swooping from the night sky,
hunting mice and voles.
A wood thrush
sang to us from high branches
in the pines, wove pictures
of the southern sea.
Great sharks churned without cease,
and above green water, seagulls
shrieked their anguish to the empty sky.
A Million Birds
It is the shadows that burn.
Maybe we were not meant
to see that, maybe we peeked
behind the veil of night,
but we saw flames and ash.
We trembled in that orange
glow, and heat seared our faces,
while our backs ached
in the cold. What we saw, we
saw, each with one eye open,
a pair of wily crows shocked
into terror on a new earth,
beneath the bright, bulbous
stars of a heaven strewn
carelessly above a landscape
scarred and riven by fire, by breath,
by the carrion flight of a million birds.
© 2017 Steve Klepetar
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