— Mary Jo Salter
They’ve perched for hours
on that window-ledge, scarcely
moving. Beak to beak,
a matched set, they differ
like salt and pepper shakers.
It’s an event when they tuck
(simultaneously) their pinpoint
heads into lavender vests
of fat. But reminiscent
of clock hands blandly
turning because they must
have turned—somehow, they’ve
taken on the grave,
small-eyed aspect of monks
hooded in conferences
so intimate nothing need
be said. If some are chuckling
in the park, earning
their bread, these are content
to let the dark engulf them—
it’s all the human
imagination can fathom,
mindless two silhouettes
stand in a window thick
as milk glass. They appear
never to have fed on
anything else when they stir
all of a sudden to peck
savagely, for love
or hygiene, at the grimy
feathers of the other;
but when they resume
their places, the shift
is one only a painter
or a barber (prodding a chin
back into position)
would be likely to notice.
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Mary Jo Salter, “Two Pigeons” from Henry Purce
Two poems by Hailey Leithauser.
No other song
O, She Says
O, she says (because she loves to say O),
O to this cloud-break that ravels the night,
O to this moon, its mouthful of sorrow,
O shallow grass and the nettle burr’s bite,O to heart’s flare, its wobbly satellite,
O step after step in stumbling tempo,
O owl in oak, O rout of black bat flight,
(O moaned in Attic and Esperanto)O covetous tongue, O fat fandango,
O gnat tango in the hot, ochered light,
O wind whirred leaves in subtle inferno,
O flexing of sea, O stars bolted tight,O ludicrous swoon, O blind hindsight,
O torching of bridges and blood boiled white,
O sparrow and arrow and hell below,
O, she says, because she loves to say O.
— Pablo Neruda
It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air -
and there, night came in.
When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography -
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.
—William Carlos Williams
The little sparrows
about the pavement
with sharp voices
over those things
that interest them.
But we who are wiser
shut ourselves in
on either hand
and no one knows
whether we think good
the old man who goes about
walks in the gutter
without looking up
and his tread
is more majestic than
that of the Episcopal minister
approaching the pulpit
of a Sunday.
astonish me beyond words.
— John Updike
The shadows have their seasons, too.
The feathery web the budding maples
cast down upon the sullen lawn
bears but a faint relation to
high summer’s umbrageous weight
and tunnellike continuum—
black leached from green, deep pools
wherein a globe of gnats revolves
as airy as an astrolabe.
The thinning shade of autumn is
an inherited Oriental,
red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.
Birds Appearing In A Dream
by Michael Collier
One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,
another a tail of color-coded wires.
One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,
another a flicker with a wounded head.
All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,
bright, circulating in burning air,
and all returned when the air cleared.
One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,
deep in the ground, miles from water.
Everything is real and everything isn’t.
Some had names and some didn’t.
Named and nameless shapes of birds,
at night my hand can touch your feathers
and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,
you who have made bright things from shadows,
you who have crossed the distances to roost in me.