Red Song of the Passenger Pigeon

 

About the time the beehive turns into a papery cathedral

and closes its door on that last roving drone steeped in lavender
 

            when blue dims the light on the glinting dogwood

            licking wounds in the diminishing air
 

and she folds the last newspaper into a globe of rectangles
 

            and fog unrolls from the mountains clothing us

                            in Sunday robes

            and I remember I wanted to tell you something
 

about rain and how language is flat origami, creased and spread open,

creased and spread in the seams of war
 

even though I love you and our bodies
are drenched together with starry atmosphere
 

            and we fold the headlines together

            crossfire and coffee grounds, apple core on page 6 and wildfire
 

                            held in the creases of douglas fir bark large enough to fold
 

            our bodies into sideways making us thousand year old

            passenger pigeons igniting the sky with fire and feather
 

and I wouldn’t check the time on my phone or see if you
texted me your undying commitment to love me back
 

            through an evening so crumpled air sweeps away the history

of shell and perch and we live an eggless existence
 

            our bodies bare and blue of sky and wolf
            beaten in the gentle primrose cloud
 

that colors us the chiaroscuro blues of dusk

in the end of another beginning when the passenger pigeon
 

            burned sunset into a migrating wilderness of survival

            and loss on a star burning near sun

 

 

                              *

 

 
and loss burning on a star near sun

            and the golden eye of the sky’s address

burning paper and bodies through the child’s looking glass

            while a civilization is asleep

                            riding zip code air draft            

            until even god is endangered by the excessive grave yard

            waiving its rights for spiritual petition

the ground opens for you until death is crowned

            into extinction                        the loss of loss

                            forgive the ghosts            their desire to come back

black rhinoceros tusk a cleft in time’s sheet drying on the line

a ray of sun among the billowing edges or

            a stack of checkers ending all movement

 

 

                                   *

 

 
            a stack of checkers ending all movement, a crown

of silence, a crown of night

crown of fire
crown of tree
crown of motor
crown of ocean
crown of fist

            crown of feathers an old wives tale, feathers weaving a halo

                            on the death pillow

                                          when we used to die
                                          at home

                            our spirits crossing the balcony’s threshold, ringing
                            the song of our passing

                            through the wind chime, a family relic your mom gave you

            to bless the home, the song of death the song

                            of a thousand winds in a single willow, the song of

pigeons sewing haloes around our dreams

            four wind chimes to ward away the spirits

                            ancient harmony smudged by earth’s thumb

            on the wall of everything that ever lived

and came back until it couldn’t / imagine itself again

            another way, death crowned an image

                            death crowned a species

 

 

                                     *

 

 
death crowned a species

            a humid red song, an orthodox

                            in the wind

                            chime

            Martha died in Cincinnati
                            the city that sings

            she had difficulty breathing, a distinct wheeze

                            a passerby noted, a disinterest

            for entertaining the humans honoring gawking ing ing ing

the species

                            to be red
                            to be martha
                            to be passenger pigeon

                                            you are red
                                            you are martha
                                            you are passenger pigeon

 

 

                           *

 

 
you are passenger pigeon

 

 

 

JM Miller is a poet and essayist living on a small organic farm on Vashon Island, Washington. They won the Grand Prize for the Eco Arts Awards in 2014 and were a finalist for Terrain.org’s 2013 poetry contest (read the poems). They have one chapbook, Primitive Elegy (alice blue books) and a forthcoming collection, Wilderness Lessons in 2016 (FutureCycle Press). JM directs poetry studies at the University of Washington in Tacoma and teaches at Richard Hugo House. Their work explores the environmental imagination, queer radicalism, the artist as activist and ways to use naturalism (the senses and spirit!) to access greater worldhood. View their website to learn more about them or download the Book of (Eco) Spells.

Header image of Billing pair by John James Audubon, the best known illustration of this species, but with scientific errors (1824).

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