Caged Bird, by Matthew J. Spireng

Some believe there’s somewhere in the brain
that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth’s
magnetic field and uses a sort of memory
of that to travel the same route year after year
over thousands of miles, over open ocean
on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock
that, save for weather’s influence, tells
when it’s time to go. But they utter nothing
of thwarted dreams in birds’ brains, how
a few cubic feet near the ground, however
well-kept and lighted, however large it seems
around a small bright bird, is like a fist
closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times
of year, the bird’s heart races as if to power flight.

Rocket, by Todd Boss

Despite that you
wrote your name
and number
on its fuselage
in magic marker

neither your quiet
hours at the kitchen
table assembling
it with glue

nor your choice of
paint and lacquer

nor your seemingly
equally perfect
choice of a seemingly
breezeless day
for the launch of
your ambition

nor the thrill
of its swift ignition

nor the heights
it streaks

nor the dancing
way you chase
beneath its

dot

across that
seemingly endless
childhood field

will ever be
restored to you

by the people
in the topmost
branches of whose trees

unseen

it may yet from
its plastic
chute
on thin
white
string

still swing.

The Carolina Wren, by Laura Donnelly

I noticed the mockingbirds first,
           not for their call but the broad white bands,

like reverse mourning bands on gunmetal
           gray, exposed during flight

then tucked into their chests. A thing
            seen once, then everywhere—

the top of the gazebo, the little cracked statue,
            along the barbed fence. Noticed because

I know first with my eyes, then followed
           their several songs braiding the trees.

Only later, this other, same-same-again song,
           a bird I could not see but heard

when I walked from the house to the studio,
           studio to the house, its three notes

repeated like a child’s up and down
           on a trampoline looping

the ground to the sky—
           When I remember being a child like this

I think I wouldn’t mind living alone
           on a mountain, stilled into the daily

which isn’t stillness at all but a whirring
           gone deep. The composer shows how

the hands, palms down, thumb to thumb
           and forefinger to mirrored finger, make

a shape like a cone, a honeybee hive, and then
           how that cone moves across the piano—

notes in groups fluttering fast back-and-forth
           and it sounds difficult but it isn’t

really, how the hand likes to hover each patch
           of sound. Likes gesture. To hold. Listening

is like this. How it took me a week to hear
           the ever-there wren. And the bees

are like this, intent on their nectar,
           their waggle dance better than any GPS.

A threatened thing. A no-one-knows-why.
           But the wrens’ invisible looping their loop—

And I, for a moment, pinned to the ground.
           Pinned and spinning in the sound of it.

A Sense of Proportion, by William Stobb

On 20th between Madison and Ferry
a line of municipal maples binds the community
to an orderly, serviceable beauty. Platforms
from which our sparrows and starlings
might decorate our domestic sedans,
perhaps these trees serve most to stimulate
the car wash economy. Today, they remind me:

unsatisfied with workaday species, my parents
nailed oranges to a post to attract the exotic Oriole.
When the birds arrived, I wondered if they’d flown
all the way from Baltimore, which in turn
evoked a hotel, gables lined
with black and tangerine, posh clientele
spackled by the vagaries of Maryland living.

By nine I could sigh, climb our single
red maple, which I imagined a national landmark.
Child of movies, I could see the tree even at night
as a kind of beacon, a singularity. White
sheen on the leaves’ pitchy gloss, bodily.
And I too would learn to feel glazed
as any creature accumulating light

cast from stars, hidden in a federation
of equivalent times, distant trains
carrying sugar, coal, whole families beyond
deserts, imposing ranges, shimmering coastlines
said to define the spirit of a people.
Far from the station, the pinpoint aurora,
a line of municipal maples bears its charge.

Butterflies Poem, by Fawziyya Abu Khalid

When you abandoned me,
I didn’t need an elegy
because you had planted
a flight of butterflies in my heart
whose path I follow
like a bedouin who knows
how to perfectly trace the footsteps
of his traunt mare.

Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird, by Wallace Stevens

1

Among twenty snowy mountains
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird

2

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

3

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

4

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

5

I do not know which to prefer
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes.
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

6

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

7

O thin men of Haddam,
Why to do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
of the women about you?

8

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

9

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

10

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

11

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

12

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

13

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

1923

Flying, by Sarah Arvio

One said to me tonight or was it day
or was it the passage between the two,
“It’s hard to remember, crossing time zones,

the structure of the hours you left behind.
Are they sleeping or are they eating sweets,
and are they wanting me to phone them now?”

“In the face of technological fact,
even the most seasoned traveler feels
the baffled sense that nowhere else exists.”

“It’s the moving resistance of the air
as you hurtle too fast against the hours
that stuns the cells and tissues of the brain.”

“The dry cabin air, the cramped rows of seats,
the steward passing pillows, pouring drinks,
and the sudden ridges of turbulence. . .”

“Oh yes, the crossing is always a trial,
despite precautions: drink water, don’t smoke,
and take measured doses of midday sun,

whether an ordinary business flight
or a prayer at a pleasure altar. . .
for moments or hours the earth out of sight,

the white cumuli dreaming there below,
warm fronts and cold fronts streaming through the sky,
the mesmerizing rose-and-purple glow.”

So did you leave your home à contrecoeur?
Did you leave a life? Did you leave a love?
Are you out here looking for another?

Some want so much to cross, to go away,
somewhere anywhere & begin again,
others can’t endure the separation. . .

One night, the skyline as I left New York
was a garden of neon flowerbursts—
the celebration of a history.

Evolution of Danger, by Tina Chang

I’m the one in the back of the bar, drinking cachaça,
fingering the lip of the glass. Every dream has left
me now as I wait for the next song: Drag and drum.
They’ll be no humming in this room, only fragrance
of sweat and fuel. To make the animal go. To make it
Hungry. After that there is Thirst.

*

I danced in the border town until it wasn’t decent,
until I was my grandest self hitchhiking, my slim arm
out like the stalk of a tired flower, waving, silver rings
catch the headlights. I’m not sure what I wanted
as we rode on his motorcycle where Chinese signs blurred
past, flashing red, then blue, and I breathed in the scent
of fish and plum. My hands found their way to his pockets
as I rode without helmet, careening toward the cemetery,
the moon dripping light onto avenues of tombstones.

*

If the Tunisian black market was hidden within a maze.
If I couldn’t find my way, I asked. The wide eyes
of the boy who led me to the Mediterranean Sea.
If I took his kindness as a version of truth and stood
posing for a photo in front of bicycles leaned
against the sand colored walls. If I arrived
at the center of the market, women in black muslin
sold glazed tile on blankets. When I bent down,
the men surrounded me. If they asked for money
I had nothing. If they threw their bills around me,
I recall the purple and red faces crushed on paper.

*

Attempting to cross the border with no passport,
no money. The contents had fallen out of her
pocket as she ran for the bus. She made promises
to the officers, bared an inner thigh until their eyes
grew wide, until they stamped a sheet of official paper
with tri-colored emblems. The man’s fist
was large though it twitched as he pounded
the stamp onto the translucent page. The little
money she had inside an orange handkerchief tied
to her hair, coins rolling to the ground as she fled.

*

Perhaps it was chance that I ended on the far side
of the earth. Atrocities of our entanglement not on the bed
but beside it. Using our mouths as tools for betterment,
for seduction, for completion. The vertebra twists
into a question mark to conform to another’s.

In the Patanal, the cowboys steadied the horses
in the barn, the animal’s labored breathing, the sigh
as the coarse brush worked through the mane.
The owner’s daughter learning to move her hips
as she practiced her samba before the steaming pot,
and radio clicking, and lid drumming.

Of the men I’ve known, you were the most steady,
reliable one near the window killing mosquitoes,
gathering cool water to press to my scalp. One-sided
heart I was then. Selfish one. I wanted everything.
Macaws flew past in quick flock, pushing outward
toward the earth’s scattering filament and mystery.

*

I don’t ask myself questions anymore
(but it is not a question you ask yourself),
rather it was born, rather that the statement
was peeled like a film of dirt, (rather
the words were meaning) wrapped inside
a scarf, stuffed into my carry bag, rather
that the camera caught all of it
(the hunter and the kill).

When danger itself was restless,
(it had four legs and it ran with speed
& vengeance). Though there was
no purpose, (though the past had nothing
to do with the chase now). This grand state
(pumped from its own engine of blood),
centuries of evolution, first as a red-eyed
embryo, then reptile, then mammal, then
man, pure racing, push of muscle and tendon,
the tongue loose and dragging as the body
made its way forward. Each time more
powerful, a new version of waking until
the species grew great wings and lifted.

The Geese, by Hyam Plutzik

A miscellaneous screaming that comes from nowhere
Raises the eyes at last to the moonward-flying
Squadron of wild-geese arcing the spatial cold.

Beyond the hunter’s gun or the will’s range
They press southward, toward the secret marshes
Where the appointed gunmen mark the crossing

Of flight and moment. There is no force stronger
(In the sweep of the monomaniac passion, time)
Than the will toward destiny, which is death.

Value the intermediate splendor of birds.

Vigo Martin, by Victor Hernández Cruz

In a city that now floats
in a bottle,
In a dimension outside
of the census,
within walls that were unregistered,
there was a painter,
Who performed his roll
like the Taino cave etchers,
the pyramid illustrators of
Mexico,
the scribblers of hieroglyphs.
Vigo painted the hallways
of the tenements,
While through the air
he flew upon a white horse,
Or smoked hashish for
his desert camel through
Moroccan tubes.
He painted rocks
which were heavy art.
Loose bricks were found
by landlords containing
Antillean pictographs.
An artisan of the streets,
whose smooth knowledge of
many angles
Made more lines visible
through the old face
of the barrio.

Against colorful bodega windows,
bright candy stores,
the epoch of the pachanga

Deep in the clubs of night
under the world
In the submetropolis of need,
against walls merely holding up.
Once we spoke of the art
of survival,
of loose lions and hungry tigers,
He painted lizard instincts
along imaginary river bamboo,
Frozen eye sockets
containing tar and northern ice.
We recognized how we were
packed in the chance of numbers,
ciphers in the wintry spread,
noses popping out of sardine cans,
We spoke against the doo-wop of
The Paragons Meet the Jesters
Till dawn brought
a blue light upon
roofs—the city skyline bricks steel
edges jagged in the wind.
In a conference of the stoops
he maintained that Dulces Labios
Mayaguez was his origin,
he spoke of sweet mangoes,
plena pulp,
Touching trees in honor
of the Tainos of his hands
stationed deep in his bark,
with his left hand where a tattooed
cherry blossomed.

Vigo made a collaboration
between survival and creativity,
He stored objects that came with
the wind,
Had a cellar full of broken gadgets
portions that could insert into
any malfunction,
A bazaar in search of a dictionary
of shapes and proportion.

He brushed himself like
freezer ice Halka brilliantine shine,
never alone always with a
prehistoric beast.
As evidence that I was there
on this other planet
I still maintain a rock
which he painted against
the laws of gravity
Now a paperweight
grounding the poetry of the tropics
Against the flight of the east trade
winds.

Almost There, by Timothy Liu

Hard to imagine getting
anywhere near another semi-
nude encounter down this concrete
slab of interstate, the two of us
all thumbs—

white-throated swifts mating mid-flight
instead of buckets of
crispy wings thrown down
hoi polloi—
an army of mouths

eager to feed
left without any lasting sustenance.
Best get down on all fours.
Ease our noses past
rear-end collisions wrapped around

guardrails shaking loose their bolts
while unseen choirs jacked on
airwaves go on preaching
loud and clear to every
last pair of unrepentant ears—

The Ghazal of What Hurt, by Peter Cole

Pain froze you, for years-and fear-leaving scars.
But now, as though miraculously, it seems, here you are

walking easily across the ground, and into town
as though you were floating on air, which in part you are,

or riding a wave of what feels like the world’s good will-
though helped along by something foreign and older than you are

and yet much younger too, inside you, and so palpable
an X-ray, you’re sure, would show it, within the body you are,

not all that far beneath the skin, and even in
some bones. Making you wonder: Are you what you are-

with all that isn’t actually you having flowed
through and settled in you, and made you what you are?

The pain was never replaced, nor was it quite erased.
It’s memory now-so you know just how lucky you are.

You didn’t always. Were you then? And where’s the fear?
Inside your words, like an engine? The car you are?!

Face it, friend, you most exist when you’re driven
away, or on-by forms and forces greater than you are.

The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, by August Kleinzahler

The markets never rest
Always they are somewhere in agitation
Pork bellies, titanium, winter wheat
Electromagnetic ether peppered with photons
Treasure spewing from Unisys A-15 J mainframes
Across the firmament
Soundlessly among the thunderheads and passenger jets
As they make their nightlong journeys
Across the oceans and steppes

Nebulae, incandescent frog spawn of information
Trembling in the claw of Scorpio
Not an instant, then shooting away
Like an enormous cloud of starlings

Garbage scows move slowly down the estuary
The lights of the airport pulse in morning darkness
Food trucks, propane, tortured hearts
The reticent epistemologist parks
Gets out, checks the curb, reparks
Thunder of jets
Peristalsis of great capitals

How pretty in her tartan scarf
Her ruminative frown
Ambiguity and Reason
Locked in a slow, ferocious tango
Of if not, why not

1939, by Marjorie Agosín

I

She knew how to seduce her destiny,
predict the time of flight
In 1939, dressed in garments
of night and happiness
at the threshold of a fearful
Hamburg Harbor
resolved to live,
she sailed
to Southern seas.

In 1938, the windows
of her house of water and stone
resisted the extreme
horror of that night
of broken crystals.

She, my grandmother,
taught me to recognize
the landscape of danger,
the shards of fear,
the impenetrable faces
of women,
fleeing,
accused,
audacious in their will to live.

II

Helena Broder,
created a domain
of papers, fragile vessels,
clandestine poems and
notes to be made,
discreet addresses.
With little baggage,
like a frail and ancient
angel,
she arrived,
although ready to embark again.

I survived next to her
and I was thankful for the gift of her presence.

Flying at Night, by Ted Kooser

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like
his.

When Ecstasy is Inconvenient, by Lorine Niedecker

Feign a great calm;
all gay transport soon ends.
Chant: who knows—
flight’s end or flight’s beginning
for the resting gull?

Heart, be still.
Say there is money but it rusted;
say the time of moon is not right for escape.
It’s the color in the lower sky
too broadly suffused,
or the wind in my tie.

Know amazedly how
often one takes his madness
into his own hands
and keeps it.

1941 Piece, by Emilio Villa

It could be
that on any given
day air would travel
half-heartedly through the air,

maybe, but if Lake Garda fails to recover in time
all the dust eaten by cyclists in meaningless races,
and kilometers that don’t count, good for nothing,

maybe, as long as the ozone and the horizontal rain
speak to traffic cops with nickeled stands of poplar
about ideal jubilees, communism fresh as a rose

and then we would feel
as if in our chests mangled by spears,
thoughtful devotions, affections, vanities,
our dioceses were to drown one by one
little by little, and inside the other
ephemeral vase of air, shipwrecked people
were to surface
with a brotherly laugh, but without
the body dense as a body or as any thing

and as long as the dodging capon,
trapped on the edge of the fog or within
autumn’s violet stubble, failed to die
heroically wounded by that pocket knife thrown
by chance, stuck in his shins until blood is spilled; or

as long as the train’s smell slithers to checkpoints
and realizes in the end that the world’s nights
and the lowing from the stalls of Brianza, and the breath

of foreign fodder, and the air filled
with a stew of local beef, and the change
of musical coins across the zinc counter, will touch
the firmament with frosted hands: and then

some agate marbles concealed in the panic snore
of those poplars will serve as lamps or blinds

and it’s not like the heavens
are a sound, bottomless investment, or a mine
devoid of fatherland and feeling

therefore, let the troops hurry like shades with coats
on the borders rubbing mile after mile,
year after year; and more so the hidden anguish of breaths
grows here in the fatherland and furthermore freezes
in this chaos, and here the fish seeps out,
like mandatory nostalgia for the northern star, and
the train’s snake-like turns, stops, the long
detours through the countryside, through the nocturnal
paint of drizzling rain and murk

thus, drunk with weakness facing the earthly dream
where the stones of Europe mature, where stately
gardens float in the naviglio of peace,
nations devised in the dreams of strange
prime ministers with rocks in their heads

drunk with emotion the last seafarer or engineer
or fresh water sailor, or athlete at the track,
forgotten the silvery shimmer of canals and verdure,
the murmur of pewter silverware washed
in doorways opening onto towpaths
in that slow after-supper idleness, let him go
beyond the soul

and then again, beyond the soul everything is a mirror
of celestial Catholic confusion, nor do we want to
believe in our bodies too much, this mirror, enough,
for the time being, with this annoying light

yet meanwhile the rest of us exist, both one and the other,
fearfully, reverentially, and then,
rising from the busy welfare rolls
we pass, like sickly clouds, toward the fine liquor
of the Atlantic, at the county’s end,
without the noise of borders or hallways: that’s where

everything will be vague and flawless, everything
in common; there, not a single strip of twilight
ever appears stronger than the night

electric, fish-like.

How I Am, by Jason Shinder

When I talk to my friends I pretend I am standing on the wings

of a flying plane. I cannot be trusted to tell them how I am.
Or if I am falling to earth weighing less

than a dozen roses. Sometimes I dream they have broken up

with their lovers and are carrying food to my house.
When I open the mailbox I hear their voices

like the long upward-winding curve of a train whistle

passing through the tall grasses and ferns
after the train has passed. I never get ahead of their shadows.

I embrace them in front of moving cars. I keep them away

from my miseries because to say I am miserable is to say I am like them.