Season of standing winds, long gusts like generations.
Pewter sky. Sunset: a welding torch at the horizon joint.
One defeated barn in the last twenty miles. A doorless,
Rusted Chevrolet. Snow packed stubble fields where
A line of bulldozer blades stands out as windbreak.
Fencepost. A beaten and scattershot road sign.
Then a vision of wind-rushed plumage, the regal eye
Piercing me, reminding me how alive the first world is.
The one behind mine. The one I dream, or dreams me.
For the Dusky Seaside Sparrow
I catch you in the quick considerations of the chickadee
That flits from porch step to the sagging wire fence,
Then to the underside of a maple branch. By catch you
I mean to say you emerge as if flushed from a thicket
In memory—a salt marsh near Apalachicola Bay
Where I vacationed as a boy—driftwood and seaweed,
Trill of the oystercatcher. Along the shore we sought
Pristine sand dollars. At night we dug our heels
In wet sand to reveal Noctiluca, the green flickering
Stars underfoot, then followed Mom through the dark
To the beach access parking lot. Behind the row of
Moonlit sedans, off among the marsh grasses,
I imagine you nested. Your stout chest rising and falling.
In the station wagon, my brother emptied a pail of seashells.
Mother placed two perfect sand dollars in a cup holder.
And they drove away. Alone in the memory now, I linger,
Follow the taillights that diminish on the beach road.
The salt wind sweeps wide centripetal arcs across the Gulf
As I walk through sea oats toward a lagoon where a heron
Stalks in shallow water. This is as close as I can come,
Your nest—a grave of twig and feather, clutchless.
Paul Pickering’s poems have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review and Fogged Clarity. He received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon. He teaches at Ohio University where he is a PhD candidate in English.
Header photo by Michele Aldeghi, courtesy Shutterstock.