IN WHICH WE TRY TO TELL THE TRUTH
You've seen the starlings coil and whip
together, trued somehow, as if
they share a heart or share an eye
or hear the same impatient song,
a song you've never learned, nor I.
Sometimes you are the sunset hawk
who cuts a furrow in the flock
and winnows one dark bird away
to bring home to the nest, but leaves
the flock, the whirling mass, unchanged.
Sometimes I am the humming wire
that offers all its reach and roar,
its line of lights and debts, as perch
for sentences: the sky's bird-words,
each silhouette a character.
We might learn something if they'd just
hold still to be deciphered but
like other words they never do.
You've seen the photos of the flocks.
The stillness makes them seem untrue.
Orange trees march northward behind the dragonflies.
Some things march northward, other things upward.
Laws of heat, laws of light. Crocuses open
their purple throats. Now where are the bees
to mete out blessings? Still sleeping
maybe in the dark combs or underground
or dead. My job for the present is to destroy
the aphids which are sucking the young brassicas
in the room that is a whitelit nursery. Where
did they come from - the aphids? Migrants,
in the soil. Just trying to make a living. Welcome
to the land of America in the 21st century. Here
we hurry fatally
by brown boys and insects and everything
else offensive or inconvenient until it's all equal
opportunity dust. Poetry
is a poor medium for protest
but it is excellent for mourning! Once
there were jazzmen and golden toads. You could say
it's turnover it's inevitable but usually I don't say
that. But right now are killdeer and
orangutans. But right now the blind
jet slathers a creekside in fire
where a moment ago there was a wedding
in a grove of olives. But right now are gray whales
and gardens. But I watch cheatgrass creeping
yearly higher on the canyon slope. They shoot
another kid in another city built like a prison, all vertical
bars, inescapable, full of cash and cars and right now
the black slick smothers another
reef. Well. You have seen it all
too. Poetry is a poor medium
for protest. I don't want you to think
I am an extremist. I think Michelangelo
did some beautiful work. And Nina the shuddering
sea lion prophet. There are saxophones
but also tiny pieces of plastic everywhere.
In your exfoliating moisturizer. On top
of every coffee cup. What on earth. Like sowing
the ground with salt. But where are the enemies? What
is this war? When I poorly imitate a bird I wonder
if it thinks that I am poisoned.
Christina deVillier is a poet and farmer native to rural Oregon. She's currently pursuing her MFA at the Writers' Workshop.