birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
What early birds in spring meant
to us, exactly, was unlikely
what they intended.
We see them as if painted
Audubon birds on glass, each separately
arranged to make dimensions visible,
and (still) the birds were against us.
At first, we thought they were part of our same world
(or we were, of theirs)
and that they were “singing,”
when they were really threatening
other birds to stay away!
Once, in the woods in northern California, I saw myself reflected in the smooth mica
underside of a tiny rock pulled up from a stream. Behind me I saw the sky with clouds and
a blue jay on a rock raging in bird talk. I knew something then—I still know it
the way we got here told in fragments
of overlapping lives, and a history remembered
to replicate the fractured reach
of each document, the tattered edge of another
what thoughts, evaluations mixed
at first, they so loved the older poets
the ones still speaking in strong accents
broadly British, though from Connecticut
but once new ones came along, they
craved a broken-up line, scattered random
words and slang. So what was famous
in their mother’s textbook,
or “Matthew Arnold,” found only footnotes
we later meditated on the suicidal—
were we expecting them to slam?!
A measure that’s given
(istorie to begin with meant
an account given of a person’s life).
On a perfect spring morning I stood with my coffee at the big kitchen window just
looking out at the yard’s new grass and daffodils. At the far end of the yard
a mocking bird sat on the top of the kid’s swing set. At first, he seemed to be
looking right at me, but then suddenly he lifted off the bar, dipped first low toward
the grass, and then recovering his altitude and speed, he raced across the yard and
crashed dead into the window in front of me.
Oh, that’s so revealing!
so, if I philosophize a world as being
states of knowing such that each perception
a separate world, jammed amongst
other impenetrable worlds, like
mine, yours, or someone else’s
This, then, is MY world! Not the bird’s!
I sense sometimes a deeper
self (in dreamy mists
between wake and sleep)
who was a small, soft, powder-blue ball.
doves cooing, swallows
aerial mysteries in the evening
air, paired cormorants fishing
side by side, the waves’ rhythmic
shush or a Costa’s hummingbird
darting, then the wounded
sparrow circling in the grass
on a single broken wing
(but, in Italy they sell dead larks
tied on strings to eat, or in cages
as Judas goats, alive for luring victims)
while some birds oddly flit and flop
their hip-hop dance
to temp predators away.
Ought we enlist them, listen then? Pretend we can speak bird talk?
A storm that came through here all day and rained walls of rain against the house
and a wind blew hard, and the lights flickered once or twice, and all of it a roar;
but now the seagulls glide in the lingering onshore breeze and the surface of the sound
is barely rippled all the way out to the black freighter with the white superstructure
that’s ever so slowly inching out to sea.
On a hard black night and cloudless
there were the stars,
nearly all of them.
A thickly brightness showing through frames
woven of branches
and branchlets of winter,
maples, wiry and spidery
One last brown autumn
leaf was blown
across a knoll of withered grass
on the wind’s insistence, hopping,
and I thought it was a bird.
Bird memories, the first I ever saw of
rook clouds in Ireland nesting
in the tall trees waving in the wind,
the nests wild
the birds and with branches, weaving the nests
feeding the fledglings
and the sky speckled black
The extent of one’s plain consciousness
measures a world
not the less true for being
So the words are stuck
to the page.
they wave their arms around
dance up and down
as if we are supposed to know
somehow it means something
What do we imagine what words like this
are supposed to do,
but carry some vibration
(as in a 17th century aviary
and wire filigree)
from where it has barely
wiggled over to where we are
about to lift up from the branch.
stretching roots of words,
scratched or painted
reaching without reflection.
In St. Bernard’s school the girls braided paper messages like bows into their hair (they called them mourning doves), one for every venial sin they would commit that day. Some of the girls wove in extras in anticipation.
Whisper the gossip (secret love)
breathed to the kid behind you,
and behind that to the next one
and to the next and the next
until the message
arrives at last to the last one,
and she reads out
Who gets the last word, anyway?
Bio: Charles D. Tarlton