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Blue Jay


A sound like a rusty pump beneath our window

Woke us at dawn.  Drawing the curtains back,

We saw—through milky light, above the doghouse—

A blue jay lecturing a neighbor's cat

So fiercely that, at first, it seemed to wonder

When birds forgot the diplomacy of flight

And met, instead, each charge with a wild swoop,

Metallic cry, and angry thrust of beak.


Later, we found the reason.  Near the fence

Among the flowerless stalks of daffodils,

A weak piping of feathers.  Too late now to go back

To nest again among the sheltering leaves.

And so, harrying the dog, routing the cat,

And taking sole possession of the yard,

The mother swooped all morning.


                                                    I found her there

Still fluttering round my head, still scattering

The troops of blackbirds, head cocked toward my car

As if it were some lurid animal,

When I returned from work.  Still keeping faith.

As if what I had found by afternoon

Silent and still and hidden in tall grass

Might rise again above the fallen world;

As if the dead were not past mothering.


Paul Lake



From Another Kind of Travel, The University of Chicago

Press, © 1988.  Reprinted by permission of the author.


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