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Claire Keyeís poems from Membersí Night, January 8, 2016

 

BECAUSE I NEVER LEARNED THE NAMES OF BIRDS

 

 

I canít advise you

about the fulsome momit building a nest in the eaves

and speckling your porch with guano

or draw your attention from the roadside

foliage to the blatant bully-bird

tearing across the sky to pirate

the eggs of that dusky wing-flapper.

 

Darling, shall we walk to the beach

where the locals have spied the weird necktie

duck? Shall we resist the urge to chase

those skittish rovers patrolling the shore-line?

 

Or shall we rest on the porch

after the morning rains and wait

for the worm pullers to work the lawn?

Donít ask me the name of the long-tailed flutter-wings

posing on the telephone wires or why

the pearly gnat-picker upsets

the neighborhood squirrels.

 

All I promise you is the wild repertory bird

and the whirling dizzy. Donít ask

about the at-home-in-the-clouds wing-spreader

or that nasty swerve of pink feet

perusing the highway for road kill.

 

Cuddle with me and listen to the serenade

of the fat-toed dimwit, the tree triller, the morningís minion,

the harmonium, the capadacious, the chiripidee. 


 

AMONG BIRDWATCHERS

                     New Mexico

      

A hawk soars at ten o'clock: a broad‑wing,

ferruginous-‑‑or, ho‑hum, a redtail.  I'm surrounded

by men and women in the throes of passion,

sturdy shoes notwithstanding. Not content

simply to sight an eagle, they discuss

whether male or female,

                  an immature or an adult.  

 

Spotting a snipe is a thrill.

          Two snipes, ecstasy.

A flutter of wings and they're transfixed

by a flash of color in winter trees.

 

They tolerate me, a hanger‑on,

             my mind on lunch and warm toes. 

      

When we arrive at the ponds, I despair.

Because there are grebes.

   Because grebes come in two kinds.

       Because one sports a reddish‑orange beak.

          And the other an orange beak with red in it. 

               Something like that. 

      

Backing away, I find a quiet cove

and a bench offering respite in the sun.

In a neighboring tree, a woodpecker makes a racket,

its head red‑knobbed and frantic

as it strikes and probes for insects. 

              Is it a ladder‑back?  a downy?

 

A rustling in some aspens

and I'm joined by a mountain bluebird,

     a glorious sheen of several shades of blue. 

           It swoops to the ground. 

              Surely there's something luscious to eat

                  in the underbrush. 

 

Surely there's something nearly as choice  

          in bearing witness.

 

Claire Keyes