Bird Poem by Alicia Salvadeo

Bird Poem

by Alicia Salvadeo



It always begins with a dumb little bird:

Keats under plums, Whitman on the beach,

Williams at his window eyeing trees, the sun

rising a minute later than yesterday; I wake up,


read mail, pay bills, raw sleep still gummed

to lashes, bits I rub loose by noon: to conjure 

the fragile thing, to have it drown all over

again in the swimming pool, to be ten years old


and recognize the opportunity to correct nature

on this one, to relieve the flapping body from

a carefully choreographed dance to death, before I

learn that all things move in this way, creatures


mangled red through a shatterable verse

with meanings they did not ask for. I look up.

I pull open the sliding door. Colored suncatchers

cling against glass. I open the gate. I maneuver


the net, and it is heavy. I dip the net in water,

lift the bird onto warm concrete. The animal heaves

like a heart. I wrap the bird in Bounty paper towels,

leave a piece of Wonderbread. ‘Bird’ has no


etymology, but I am saying: I use the word, as if

for a first time—bird: an unnoticed shift of pole

stars—bird: the pine needles fall away from the

bristlecone—bird: to disappear, one by one,


like the winged animal beating air behind and

underneath, leaving its bathing flock for a nest hidden

in a lunar plain called Solitude, away from the pond

where my young grandfather dips his fishing


line, my small mother’s white blonde giving light

back to the sun as she wanders off, holding one doll

in a way I can’t remember—bird: whose rictus mouth

runs over these words, whose hands run blearily


over my body to check whether I’m still

here, and not there, where the old neighbor’s cat

leaves in the backyard wet feathers and misplaced

bones, like children’s toys scattered


in the street with no one to use them—

bird: are you still here because I’m not, the

infinitesimal heart of the universe bursting apart

in all directions, an unsettled divergence.