Monday, January 19, 2004

I have so neglected you, my little blogger friend. Here's something to chew on:

The Field Guide to North American Birds

As soon as I learned to walk, my mother
took me out of the house in dawdling tours
of our neighborhood skies, me barefoot and her
in pink tennis shoes: the simple kind that
were popular back then, not good for running.

She was trying to introduce me to birds:
the Purple Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker,
Steller’s Jay, Evening Grosbeak, Northern
Cardinal, Mountain Wren, Yellow-throated
Warbler --
the seed-eaters, the sap-suckers and those with
beaks like knives, the better to pry at shrinking

Their names were exotic to me
full of color, odd vowels and places I had never
been --the European Starling.
Europe was where princesses were born and where
everyone wore red velvet. Starling sounded
like a tiny star, black, who could perch and fly
and call in a scream that made me jump.
The White-breasted Nuthatch -- who embarrassed me,
yet made me look hard for her in the pine tree
in our backyard.

She was creating them, my mother, as she gave
each a name, and explained how different they were
from us: lungs that never exhaled in sighs, bones that floated
hollow, and hearts that beat a thousand times a minute.

It was on this walk
under telephone wires that
wrang with house wrens
I first saw it
the envy in my mother’s eyes
of things that were free.