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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


As probably more than a few of us have, I’ve become much more of a bird-watcher these pandemic days. Hence, the following poem, triggered by yesterday’s ride.


What I Learn From Birds

The higher in the sky, the more cause

to wonder what has called this flock

of turkey vultures to spiral upward

coasting the thermals until some spent

thing calls them down to Earth again.

And yesterday on the road’s edge

what bird lay there, body splayed

from a collision with an unexpected

obstacle? I almost stopped to confirm

that its barred feathers looked hawk.

I used to collect all manner of feathers,

lay them out on the mantel in a family

of stones and shells, and later on my

dresser at the base of the photo of my

late husband, a man who loved birds.

These days, I no longer stoop to pick up

gull, crow, blue jay, dove, or those tiny

nameless fluffs along the way. And I have

discarded any older ones—dust-gatherers

in a house already filling with dust.

Yet I still crave to feel bird-flight raise me

into the void, seek out the songs, squawks,

and cries that call me to translate—even to

chirp or whistle back as I briefly become

bird, hoping for an answer.

A simple ride with new binoculars can lift

my spirit—as a blur of white on the horizon

becomes ibis, a red flash under a black wing

shouts red-winged blackbird, and five crows

bathing in a puddle splash me with laughter.

© 2020 Penny Harter

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