thirteen ways of looking at a pelican (4 – 5)

by shaindel beers


4.

The young man and his friends float the river
the Fourth of July
		                 Downstream are parade
sounds    neighing of horses     marching bands 
salvos of gunfire
		         
Here, there is only the river	soft lap of water
against the inner tube

			            The peace only occasionally
interrupted by an Oh shit! when a raft scuffs a rock
gets hung up on a branch

	     Miraculously, the pelicans sit still on the rocks
inspecting from ice blue eyes on either side of long beaks

		        Their heads tilt this way and that
but otherwise they are unmoved by these creatures

the only ones larger than they who float downstream
	    The young man has the odd feeling he has never
been so close to another breathing thing

He looks into the ice blue of the pelican’s eye as he floats
	    by     thinks of the day his eye drew this much
		        attention	      Hiding under the bill of his cap

eye surrounded by magenta bruise, fidgeting to the rhythm
of fluorescent light flicker 	the professor asking

	   My God, what happened?

He recalls the feel of the lie slipping out of his mouth

	    A baseball I didn’t catch

5.

We come home with the groceries, and I see
the slow V of pelicans floating over the neighborhood
try to tell if they are tracing the river.

I’ve heard they are one of the few bird species
that fly “for fun.” I wonder what that means,
try to imagine what it must feel like

to soar on thermals for up to fifteen miles
without flapping a wing, to climb the pillows
of hot air, drop down into coolness

to gain speed. This is called dynamic soaring.
I didn’t used to be so fascinated by anything
but now, I pull out my phone, try to record them.

They are immortalized as radar blips over
my neighbors’ chimney; in the background
my dog barks, my son is excited to be allowed

to run to the porch by himself. How could anything
be so effortless? I wonder what I might miss
if I were afforded their abilities, their innate sense

of measuring air temperature through their nostrils,
of spotting a single fish from sixty feet above water—
All I can imagine missing is the grey house

with its hot pink door which I drive by every day.

thirteen ways of looking at a pelican (1 – 3)

by shaindel beers


1.

The lone pelican in the reeds
of river’s edge seemed odd.
I stopped—watched—
did nothing.

Later in the paper the story
of its broken wing,
likely caused
by flying into a wire.

That it would probably be
euthanized. When you see
a pelican alone, it usually
means something is wrong
,
said the wildlife expert.

My self-doubt that kept me
from calling. Did I cause that pelican
more hours of suffering
or gift it a few more hours
of floating in the reeds,
a little while longer to bob
in the gentle current,
the coolness of water over webbed feet?

Forgive me, pelican. I also, am always alone,
also fly too recklessly for my own good.
 

2.

When I told you about the pelican—
that I thought I should have called someone.

You said, That’s your problem. You always
doubt your instincts
.

As a woman, I’ve been taught to ignore
connections. The ones between myself

and the moon, the tides
internal and external.

The way the pelican and I
for an instant

were one.
 

3.

The pelicans sit on the rocks preening,
a section of concert violinists bowing

apricot bills against snow velvet down
of breast. I wonder if they can hear

the friction of their surfaces one against
the other. If there is a making of music

out of their bodies. I remember them
later when the photographer says,

When you touch yourself,
when your fingers skim

the hollow between throat and clavicle
you are telling the viewer, Oh, my skin

is so soft, don’t you wish you could
touch it?

the lost man leaves a will

by jennifer boyden


To the wind, the fullness of my mouth, juice
of my openness. To gnawing things, the osseous fists
of my bones’ rebinding. I want the earth
to accept my head. I have wanted to be held
by something my entire life, something that demands
all of me to answer back with holding.

To my gone children, all I cannot say without
my tongue. I call you in silence. You answer
in kind, and are counted. To birds, a nest of hair
and threads for the wobble-necked and pink-bodied.

I give the trust of grass to bear and raccoon,
to the crepuscular world who pauses before taking,
whose staring eyes give back the light of cars
as if to fix the breakage of air
before the great coming down upon them.
I have been broken. I
have been broken.

My walk from one place to this did not leave
a trail: I walked my route only once, and once-
forward is not enough to be remembered by grass.
My path is where I column into my own shape.
I give space to air with my leaving.
I give space to flying with my leaving.

I ask for nothing in return. I have received more
than I asked for, and worse: the world afloat; answers
at once and for nearly everything; animal bellies
untethered and dragging.

To the leaf, serration of my teeth.
To water, ice of my witnessing. It will need it.
To deer, asking and then emptiness before slaughter.
The grass should take my memory. But to the trails worn
by the escaping many, the mud of unknowing.

Here is what I know for now: worms,
I have loved you rightly
since I learned that dirt holds secrets blind and dependent
on whatever mercies we are willing to gift. I gave you names.
I counted your rings, measured your body-yawns

toward darkness. Worms, you are better than stars
because you are here.

Do you remember
how my mother stitched her people’s names
to my cuffs and then disappeared? The birds left
before the people did, but you, you worms, you stayed.

To the worms, my thanks. I ask you to make me rich
within yourselves: you stayed. While the earth
was fleeing itself, I named you, and you answered
to the place of my naming, and remain.


“The Lost Man Leaves a Will” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.

statement of place: jennifer boyden

I used to climb a pine tree just to have a quiet place to read, and I looked forward to the Minnesota winters because the snow makes the world so intimately silent: You can hear your heart, see your breath pushed out just in front of yourself, and then walk through it into another breath. Growing up with many siblings and a small house put me on an early path of pursuing silence and privacy, those places where I can hear the rhythms of my mind and feel word shapes take form, build, connect, and become ideas. I need a fair amount of space and quiet for this to happen. Living in the inland northwest at the edge of the Blue Mountains for the past fifteen years has provided plenty of such spaces: rolling Palouse wheat fields, thick forests, scrubland, and a river with its many tributaries. Oh, the river: I grew up in water, and so it has always been a companion that shares a need for both the hidden and the surface flash. I have lived too many very different places to say with any kind of authority where I am from (Wichita, Kansas; Boston, Massachusetts; southern Oregon, China, etc . . .). But I know what I am from: Lynch Lake, Mill Creek, apple and oak and pine trees, granite and basalt, and grasses . . . . I believe I can claim the what of place more than the where, making my homes among those things where there is potential for recognition of a mutual residence within.

david on the phone

by jennifer boyden


David sober says to feed the bear
who’s eating the birdseed in our front yard.
Says we must, for him, feed it so we’ll earn a badge
under the god he’s wearing lately. God with eyes.
God who sleeps a lot when David needs him most,
and whose waking patience is thin
as the bear’s winter cells. This God of tallying
and disappearances is called upon by David most
in the time of morning vapor when it’s hardest
for David sober to believe: whole day stretched
in front of him like paint thinner, each cup a cup
which is to be used for coffee only. Feed the bear,
David says sober though alone at his end of the hour
when god might wake for him. David says
it would go well for all of us if we pour milk over bread,
honey over meat, and then carry out the bowl.
But lock the door when you’re done, David says
sober, because the source is always sweeter
than the meal. He says the bear’s salvation will be heard,
and might speak for him at the end of his need.

And with what sweetness on the tongue
will it urge the god of that single cup awake?
And with what honeyed breath will it seek
us out again, small gods terrified of the asking?

 


“David on the Phone” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.

the apt black of crow flight

by ted jean


Crow stumbles into
the open air
after a rough night
of bad rabbit
road kill
and concussive
ice storm
out of the east.

His yawp is forced,
at first, the usual
rehearsal of unrepentance,
that bends toward bliss
as he approaches the arc
of the frozen river.

 


“The Apt Black of Crow Flight” is from Crow Sonnets.

crow

by ted jean


Marsha throws on her jacket,
jumps the fence where it is bent

          the december field is bare

she stalks the erstwhile rye
beside the dogwood brush and hazelnut

          pheasants startle the ditches

stubble and mud require care,
to get precisely nowhere

          our girl bestrides the only stump

field Marsha: cows astonished,
the crow crowd loud with scandal

way off, the lights of Ashland
rise on the solstice

circles she back, black, to the dark house

 


“Crow” is from Crow Sonnets.

hwy 38 along the umpqua near rainrock

by ted jean


High crow and low crow
ply the light above the river,
rising and falling against the neon backdrop alder.

One seems the shadow of the other,
disjunct in their dithering
as a fish with its refraction on a riffled pond.

Are they husband and wife crow?
Where do they go?
Some farcical mission, doubtless,
as they are, after all, crows.

We are driving upriver the opposite way,
Amy staring off into the spruce shadow
and sunlight strobe, possibly deep in thought.
Or not. We will never know.

 


“Hwy 38 Along the Umpqua Near Rainrock” is from Crow Sonnets.

statement of place: ted jean

Even natives complain of the Oregon rain. Not me. The low gray sky, the sifting drizzle. I get a sense of enclosure, calm, quiet. Along a November trail, the brushy bank of dripping hazelnut and thimbleberry thrums with drowsy satisfaction. The streets of downtown Portland reflect puddled light from welcoming shops. Frogs sing in the weeds with all their little green hearts. Golf course coyote regards me urbanely over her dewy shoulder. Beyond her, the firs recede into a pewter mist. Raised in the hot, dry sun of Northern California, I have converted to a better, wet religion.

statement of place: amy miller

I did a lot of traveling in my thirties, when I was making good money and had good cat sitters. And I discovered an interesting thing: I loved pretty much every place I visited. I could see myself living almost anywhere—southern Indiana, the Ozarks, Berlin, Christchurch, Nairobi, Austin.

So I guess it’s no surprise that I love the Northwest, my home for the past ten years. I am gaga over the San Juan Islands, McKenzie Pass feels like my own personal lava bed, and I dream about Warm Springs’ strange rockpile fenceposts and the frogs singing in La Conner. I am from a family of transplants, itinerate ranch hands and train conductors and builders whose only constant was constant moving. Having grown up on two coasts and the Rockies, I always struggle with the concept of “home.” But I know what it is to love a place.

This time of year, Ashland, Oregon, makes its quick-change from summer to winter, the dry Cascade foothills to the north readying for snow and the steep, green Siskiyous to the south pulling what rain they can get into their deep carpet. And Ashland always in between, sun-snow-sun-snow-sun.