From the Ether
I sit at my kitchen table with the Sunday paper and coffee. Out the window, our
assorted bird feeders host a steady arrival of breakfast customers who flit in,
grab a bite, then are off in a small flash of wing and tail.
Sparrow. Titmouse. Goldfinch. Chickadee.
Silicon Valley regulars. A confused hummingbird leaves his bottle, hovers at the window for a moment, swoops to the seed-filled tube feeder as if to take a stab at a goldfinch but zooms away instead. It’s impossible to follow its flight. I hear a towhee’s screech from somewhere. The morning is full of birds. It’s difficult to ignore.
If you’ve ever edited a collection of poetry, you’ve likely experienced the strange synchronicities that occur in spite of the random process of open submissions, how some unexpected through line appears and seems to tie an issue together. As I read through the poems we’d accepted for this spring’s issue, I was suddenly struck. What’s up with all the birds?
Hawk. Snow geese. Swallow. Chickadee. Eagle. Owl. Seagull. Passerine.
Granted, we also have fish, fox, cat, a dog, half a shark, a marmot, rat, eels, ants, vermin, snake, even a ghost in this issue. There are poems about relationships, murder, leaving, grieving, and a bit of pumpkin carving, but you will have to look very hard to find a poem without some mention of birds. Birds of every feather.
Where I sit, I’m about three feet from the feasting birds. They continue to dart back and forth, feeder to tree. After all, birds are the most noticeable wildlife for country and city poets alike. Bird species fill every corner of the planet and have come to symbolize a wide variety of things: peace, war, freedom, wisdom, pride.
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
writes Emily Dickinson. Yes, and hope too. Plus birds are associated with spring, and much of the country suffered a long, hard winter. So is it something of the season or something in the zeitgeist, this plethora of avian poems? Or something about flight?
Sunday’s paper is spread around me. As a kid I used to line the floor of my parakeet’s cage with newspaper, though I favored the comics, all I ever read at that age. Like the winter, this week’s news also seems long and hard, a season from which we seem never to be free.
Sandtown. Nepal. California drought. Refugees. The kidnapped girls, slaughtered.
Only if you look up and watch carefully will you see where a bird perches once it’s left the feeder. There. A flicker, a small flash among the leaves.
I turn back to our choice for the new DMQ cover, Spring 2015. Steven DaLuz’s soaring image “Aloft” fills the page. We celebrate his generous work in this piece and throughout the issue. We celebrate the work of our fine poets who strive to make us look up from our dailyness, to take us somewhere apart. We celebrate birds and we praise the absence of birds. We celebrate our common humanity.
Wingless. Featherless. Longing to fly.
And while you’re doing a bird count of your own, make sure to catch not only the new poems of three former DMQ Review Featured Poets, but also check out their original Poet’s Bookshelf entries from our archived files, including Amy Gerstler (Spring 2006), David Lehman (Fall 2006), and Marge Piercy (Fall 2014).
But let’s hold off on submitting poems with birds in them for a while, agreed, good poets all?
from the Ether,
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