MONDAY: Three Poems


These poems were first published in Psychological Clock (Pudding House, 2007). Copyright is held by the author.

Lakeside Bird Feeder, Squirrels

Now if I had ambition I’d be
this kung fu squirrel, this lighter one,
this Jackie Chan, scaling stucco

to ledge to chimney to the hovering skid
of the evil whiz kid’s waffling chopper,
perpetual motion my only gear,

my sidekick wacky as this blacker one,
who tries but can’t quite nab his half
of the substantial stash. Their

choreography is manic, their fight scenes
replete with wall-walking, roof leaping,
jumps across gaps and gorges — all

their own improv’d stunts, every feat
a fleeting, one-take opportunity. It’s
those reflexes that make the difference:

when gravity catches their rare missteps
they can spin around an inch-thick span
of diagonal steel or the slippery rim

of a seed-spill dish, always squirming
all four feet first — whereas I’d just drop,
back-ass-down to the unforgiving earth,

my spindly claws and my mangy tail
spread like a shredded chute, a plea
for anyone at all to catch me. So,

I’ll leave these antics to my friends,
for today, the squirrels, until I can find
a way to foil them, deter them from

this wintertime welfare I’ve intended
for the birds, whose more manageable
business will give me the docile pleasure

I’ve been seeking: sitting here in a chair,
swathed in luscious listlessness, slinging
these escape lines toward anywhere I wish.

Field Notes from an Old Chair

Well, they’ve come, these early crews
though it’s only March, which in Michigan
means maybe warm one day,
the few new tender greens making

sense, then frigid the next four,
fragile bodies ballooned, all fuzz
but feeding and competing just the same.
Who would’ve ever guessed you’d be happy

anticipating birds? Since you’ve taken up
the old folks’ study of how certain species
seem to like each other, showing up in sync
like the field guides specify, your chair’s

been scribing the short, inside arc between the feeder
and where you’ll catch a bloody sun going down.
Then, mornings, if you forget, two doves startle you
when you startle them from a window well,

and as if the titmice and chickadees,
finches and nuthatches can read
they trade places on perches all day —
size, you notice, and no doubt character

determining order, amount, duration.
At this point you could’ve written the pages
on juncos or on your one song sparrow so far,
plumped and content to peck along the deck beneath.

And that pair of cardinals you’d hoped for?
They’ve set up shop somewhere in the hedgerows
and for now eat together, appearing
to enjoy each other’s company, while all above

out back crows crisscross the crisp expanse
between the high bones of trees
and the high ground that runs the dune down
to the loosened shore. Soon hawks will hover,

and when a bloated fish washes up overnight,
luring vultures to join the constant, aimless
gulls, you’ll be amused you ever worried
that the birds would never come.

Lakeside Bird Feeder, Wet Snow

Like the trusty railing, the congenial
patio table, the steady deck itself,
and every firm crotch
in every faithful tree, the feeder’s
become a sculpture.

I should have black and white to lace
into the camera to capture
this transubstantiation, this emergence
from the overnight dark and storm,
an aesthetic thing in itself,
dangling like an earring
from the gaunt lobe of a different day —
a white arrow, squirrel-emptied,
aimed straight for the flat sky.

The first little bird to find it, sunup,
can only inquire, perch
and jerk a nervous while,
then quickly move along
in wired hopes the other stops
around the circuit will service
his tiny entitlement, will be
scraped clean and waiting
like a retired guy’s double drive.

By tomorrow I know this wind
and another early thaw
will have de-transmorphed my feeder
to its manufactured purpose,
its slick roof and plexiglass siding
once again resembling an urbane
enticement to things wild, to some
Nature available outside a backdoor slider.

And I know I’ll have also lost
more impetus for believing
in permanence — except
of the impermanent,
its exceptional knack
for nourishing the dazzle
in this everyday desire.

1 comment
  1. Enjoyed these. Recognize the antics of the squirrels here in the UK (even though we resent them as North American imports wreaking havoc on our red ones!), and their relationship to the bird feeders.

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