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A Field Guide to the Birds of the Upper Yaak

ISSUE:  Spring 2004

A misty rain, no wind from the west,
Clouds close as smoke to the ground,
                                                      spring’s fire, like a first love, now gone to ash,
The lives of angels beginning to end like porch lights turned off
From time zone to time zone,
                                          our pictures still crooked on the walls,
Our prayer, like a Chinese emperor, always two lips away,
Our pockets gone dry and soft with lint.
Montana morning, a cold front ready to lay its ears back.

If I were a T’ang poet, someone would bid farewell
At this point, or pluck a lute string,
                                                  or knock on a hermit’s door.
I’m not, and there’s no one here.
The iconostasis of evergreens across the two creeks
Stands dark, unkissed and ungazed upon.
Tonight, it’s true, the River of Heaven will cast its net of strung stars,
But that’s just the usual stuff.
                                           As I say, there’s no one here.

In fact, there’s almost never another soul around.
There are no secret lives up here,
                                                  it turns out, everything goes
Its own way, its only way,
Out in the open, unexamined, unput-upon.
The great blue heron unfolds like a pterodactyl
Over the upper pond,
                                two robins roust a magpie,
Snipe snipe, the swallows wheel, and nobody gives a damn.


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