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Birds of America

Amy Gerstler

Naked and truthful the birds of America
joined forces under a pale winter sun
that hung over my house like a sucked
cough lozenge or spooked moon
for what felt like centuries but in truth
was just the season of my comeuppance.
Black and white warblers, house wrens,
fox sparrows and finches built intricate
yet casually tousled nests resembling
scarecrows’ hairdos, right out in the open,
where I could easily see them, and nuthatches
too, but I was quite blind. Briefly seen,
though not by me, was the sickly
heroin bird who nods off mid-twitter,
waking in late spring craving koolaide
and Halloween candy. Vireos appeared--
not much to look at yet armed with warm,
winning personalities if you but trouble
to get to know them. Nature thus
seductively rustling her petticoats
could not touch me for longest time
after you left. I was deaf to the eerie orchestra
of crickets seep seep seeping on tepid
summer eves, and did not taste the pot
brownies friends offered which I dutifully
chewed but could not get me high.
Nor did expertly mixed gin and tonics
flecked with colorless pulp of fresh lime
take the edge off, enliven me or give me
peace. Nor could pork chops fried
with apple slices rouse me, nor the smell
of potatoes lyonaisse; nor did the clownish
antics of a handsome black Labrador
cavorting at the frilly hem of the foaming ocean
make me grateful. Then fall hurled itself down
with its customary thud. Intrepid birds
of America, you persisted though I was
such a goner. Scruffy starlings--not considered
desirable birds but dear to me now, modest
thrushes and buntings, and male quail
with topknots like commas: there was no
flourish of trumpets or 21 gun salutes heralding
the recovery of one who’d believed herself
dead, only more birdsong persevering till
I could finally hear again. Though I know full
well it was never your feathered intent to revive
me, still I find myself deeply in your debt. These
flung handfuls of millet, peanuts and sunflower
seed hardly seem a fitting or rich enough reward.

Amy Gerstler

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