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.