Starling Murmuration, Hannah Vargas, 2022
Once we stood on a bridge over
a lime-green pond, having left
the fallen starling we saved and raised
as our own, the feathered child
we would never have,
at the bird sanctuary.
For almost a year we had prepared
her meals over the sink, a mush
of cat food, as she stood
on our shoulders and ate
from the end of a chopstick.
Later we scratched in the dirt
and pulled up a worm
or offered her a dead moth
caught between the screen
and the sill. Whole afternoons
watching her try her wings
until she could fly from lamp
to bookcase, from chair back
to hat rack. We worshiped her,
this weightless body
of hollow bones, even
the tiny coils of her bowels, curls
of guano on the Ficus leaves.
When she bathed in a bowl
on the counter top, we praised her.
At night she slept on our chests
beneath a cathedral of palms
as we watched TV, trilling
like a tiny piano through her dreams.
The sanctuary had a weathercock
that spun slowly on the breeze,
cages big as houses filled
with more of her kind, and other
homeless creatures they
would one day release
in protective flocks
after having learned to follow
and forage, to fly and nest.
It was a quiet death we held
between us, and I think
he heard the blade pass through
my heart before I began to cry,
my head on the railing, my ear
pressed to my ticking watch.
Maybe every crossing guides us.
He helped me over the bridge
and into the car and we drove
through the hills, and from then
on, every starling we saw
in a parking lot could be her.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Dorianne Laux’s most recent collection is Only As The Day Is Long: New and Selected, W.W. Norton. She is also author of The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize and Facts about the Moon, winner of the Oregon Book Award. Two new chapbooks are available now: The Mothers, a conversation in poems with Leila Chatti, and Nickel, written during the pandemic with Sharon Olds, Major Jackson and Didi Jackson, Matthew Dickman, Michael McGriff and Joseph Millar. Laux teaches poetry at Pacific University. In 2020, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Starling Murmurations, Hannnah Vargas, 2022