Three Poems by Rose Strode

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The Razorbill Voices an Objection to the Name “Razorbill”

You use that name though it makes no sense. How,
exactly, is my bill like a razor? It’s just not
that sharp, but then, I suppose, neither are you, who never
ask yourself what the thing you’re saying means.
Maybe a mouth that doesn’t have a beak
should not try to speak for me
or name me. Maybe a species that wiped out the auk
has no business appointing itself namer of the birds.

We have not tried to name you,
although your presence evokes a cry
you might perceive to be your name, an utterance
which you could translate, loosely, as Run
for your life! But that sound is changing,
just as the manner of the death you bring has changed. And you

who seek, through the effort of this poem, to reflect
the nature of names—yes, you,
using them, embed them
deeper in the rock of the world, thread
the ocean with nets of nomenclature. You
are doing this
right now.



The Razorbill Attempts to Explain the Limitations of Names

Among ourselves we have no names. Naming implies
a kind of possession and we
own nothing, not even our lives, which we trust
to the sea and the sky and the rock
and each other. To call my mate, I give voice
to the sound of longing that inhabits me, which also
inhabits her. If I had to give this moment a name I would call
She who flies to me over the many-colored ocean
and brings me back to myself. But she would be here
by then, her name changing like the light on the sea, as she
is changing as she places her bill
against mine, as against hers I place my bill
and that moment I could call the sun is born
in my heart and returns to the sky. Imagine
the love of your life touching the corner of your mouth
and the flush of heat that spreads across your face beneath
your feathers. What name
do you give that? That is our name.



The Roseate Spoonbill Attempts
to Fit In

White ibis gather on the bank to nibble clean their feathers with down-curved beaks precise as polished coral forceps. They nip and cast away any feather that sticks out, zip their plumage smooth and water-proof. Every bird is seamless.
                                                        The roseate spoonbill saunters up: pink gawp knee-deep in ibis, describable only through contrast. His walk cautious as a cowboy in stiff chaps. His balding head, a tide-lined lichen-colored beach. His beak, a shoehorn pranked on his face. Clear eye, a cloudy sky seen through a drop of water. His audacious pink the pink of a new rose, his ruffled feathers the rose unfolding, his bloom renewed each day like the sun.
                                                          His onlyness makes the flock retract. They cast themselves into the sky, flap and glide to the farther side of the water, their abandoned feathers curved as empty shells.
                                            Oh geek of the pond, oh meek-eyed hanger-on, oh gentle monster of incompatible beauties frankensteined together, oh patron saint of the socially bewildered: hear my prayer, which is roseate and hopeful as you are, yet means no more than someone else’s feather found, a plume whose color fades the moment it is cast away.





Rose StrodeRose Strode is a poet and essayist whose recent work appears in Dillydoun, Sugar House Review, New Ohio Review, The Florida Review, Dewdrop, and Kestrel. She is a master gardener and an editor at Stillhouse Press. When not writing or helping others with their writing, Rose rehabilitates overgrown gardens, tracks foxes, and attempts to teach herself the mountain dulcimer. Her favorite tools are her eraser, her binoculars, and her pruning shears.

Header photo by Christopher P. McLeod, courtesy Shutterstock.

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