This doll, painted to resemble a peasant woman, has blue eyes,
do-a-dot pink cheeks, and is wearing trumpet bell-shaped poppies instead
of a sarafan. I read about the morphology of the red poppy, a process so
abrupt that a calyx seems to lose its identity at once, as it has here, in the outer-
most doll: only the leaves can be called the calyx. But we can go back: the buds
of her breasts are not so easily lost. Designed to nest, the matryoshka doll
splits, top from bottom, to reveal another figure from the same stripped block of balsa.
The eye color goes—the lower lashes disperse like shavings. Poppies fold into
themselves—how small can they get? The inner- most doll is like the calyx:
not the green leafy top, but the whole straw- berry.
Bird for Bird
Flash of blue: the jay, what color
blue was that; or should I ask
what color the late summer
sky was: azure-stone, lapis-
lazuli, or cerulean gets me one
step closer, but the bird hides
itself. If only one could study
the jay as it is, but acting like
the killdeer, who offers itself
in place of its shallow clutch:
watch me drag my fake broken
wing. And then be open
to the suggestion that watching
it come undone is appetizing
enough (look how the killdeer’s
copper rump is uncovered by
coverts) to believe that ivory-
black splattered eggs are stones.
Constructing Audubon’s The Birds of America
The first time he stooped to observe a specimen of
American robin, or migratory thrush, in the lower half
of a Prunus caroliniana, Audubon had left his rifle at home.
He took notes: the female was gray- headed and occupied
with breakfast; her breast was a duller orange than the dark-
headed male’s, and their un- fledged young were white-
throated. But instead of describing how the male’s tail fanned
when he dropped down to feed chicks meant to be kept hidden,
Audubon wrote star top, column. He marked an x on his map,
left for his gun, and went back. He wouldn’t get any closer than
he already had while they were still living. Since failing to coax
uncountable birds to alight on his fingers, he’d discovered
the slightly protuberant bill at first dusky, ultimately pure yellow.
Beth McDermott is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, The Literary Bohemian, Harpur Palate, and Southern Humanities Review.
American Robin, Plate 131 from Audubon’s Birds of America (1827), by John James Audubon, courtesy Oppenheimer Gallery at Audubon Greenwich.