Claire Keye’s poems from Members’ Night, January 8, 2016
BECAUSE I NEVER LEARNED THE NAMES OF BIRDS
I can’t 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?
Don’t 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. Don’t 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 morning’s minion,
the harmonium, the capadacious, the chiripidee.
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.