four chambered heart

I have said you give me

I have said
though I have been collecting
feathers, downy
and sweet, flight and contour
and semiplume feathers,
bristle and filoplume
feathers, it was you
who gave me the map,
the blueprint, for the verb
to soar, to take off
and land, to catch a ray
of wind
and float.

I have said
you take me to such peaks,
take me to the apex
of mountains,
looking earthward
toward valleys
where everything
is exact,
I could continue

with hollow bones and unfolding
migration flying, nesting,
cracking open, a four-chambered
heart, ruby breasted flocks,
But I was raised not
to believe

in pride. I don’t know
what it’s like for others
to take credit
for my efforts,
no matter how much
my triumph was aided
by your maps, your
supple caresses, your
careful slices of leather
cut around the outlines
of my feet
for my landing.

This flight is my

And while you are calling
to me from the clifftop, yelling
claims to my own ascending
moments, the air is so clear
and still
all I can hear
is the pulsing
of my

what happens when a friendship ends

You tell me, look in the mirror
all you’ll see is betrayal
but the words
aren’t yours to give. The reflection
shows no bones labeled betrayal

nothing close – the only label
with B is beauty and that comes
straight from the sternum. I once
dreamed a horse, a dappled grey

on the beach in early morning golden
light, luminous, galloping, look , I say,
look a horse, coming like a click-clack
echo in a subway tunnel, that’s not a horse

you say, that’s a bird, see the wings?
The mandible, the crown, the
coverts of the wings – I thought I
knew you. Thought our realities were

concentric overlapping circles the way
we had inside jokes in the first
hour. Once you have sucked the silver
threaded foundations of me up and out

through the trepanned hole I allowed
you to drill into my forehead, where
will that leave me? Where will that
leave you? You told me we were circles,

but you are not – in fact, I am not
either, I am a sphere, an opaque crystal
ball, I can tell your fortune, read
your palm, your tea leaves, your

seven years of bad luck from that mirror
you smashed and said I did it. The betrayal
wasn’t mine. The horse will prove that,
when it is not a bird after all, it’s long

long legs leaping over sand dunes
like it’s avoiding puddles in the Village,
the tangled mess you left behind.
Unimportant, no time for that now,

here is the dappled grey, ready
and saddled, and I will
get on that high horse,
get on that wingéd high horse,

and ride.

based on this piece of art, and a recent complicated situation.

the very idea of a bird

quote from a poet friend who is also very into birds …

The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds — how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives — and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!

John Burroughs (1837 – 1921), Birds and Poets, 1887

the ending you don’t want to hear

At first there was too much feeling so she
cut out her heart and fed it to a crying lion
cub. She meaning you. Yes. But the lion cub
was really her new kitten. She didn’t have
enough milk. Is that all? No, there were
other things she never had enough of:
greens, window blinds, validation. She isn’t
ready for summer to begin.
She likes the way
the branches make fractal designs in shadow
on her front door. More than the sidewalk?
Yes, and she likes the sounds her shoes
make on pavement. She likes the empty
space surrounding her to be wholly without
meaning. She wants to be alone. That sounds
overly isolationist. Sounds like freedom. And
her hands?
Her hands keep turning into
birds and flying away from her. Her being
Yes. Do you love yourself? I don’t have to
answer that. It should matter. She has two
dozen different black shoulder bags, but
none of them are the right size. She is still
searching. She buys one every week, just in
case it is the one. It should matter. She has a
diamond stud in her nose but it doesn’t
matter. She wrote ten poems yesterday but
it doesn’t matter. This is how she stays alone.
Everything is red and newspapers are printed
on the soles of shoes, the backs of hands.
miss the point: bookcases are only
bookcases when they hold books. All of the
letters are lost and scrambled. Like the time
the pages flew from the car and got lost at the
ocean shore?
Yes. Pages flying floating until
they turned into birds. What’s with the birds?
Everyone nests, then everyone leaves.
There is truth in migration. If you make it.
What else? She cannot see her hands in the
dark. They disappear under the shelter of
the moon even when the moon is lifted in a
pirouette. She meaning you. And you.
Everyone leaves. Every relationship must
end, it is the nature of us. We are
impermanent. Even stones. What else would
stones be?
Immortal. Bounded. Discovered
on the backs of glaciers, in the hollow of
trees. Birds don’t need stones to nest. No, but
I do. Where are your hands now? Turned to
feathers, feathers, turned to down, stuffed
into pillows. Place your head here, carefully.

[After Richard Siken’s poem ‘Unfinished Duet’ from his book Crush. Also inspired by Poetry Thursday’s prompt to write a poem in dialogue.]