a panel of poets talk about the environment
perhaps unintentionally but it is there on the table
how nature is so impressed upon the work
and the words how we so urgently respond
to nature now because it’s disappearing
because extinction of species is normalized
it’s eco-anxiety but no one says that word
maybe it’s too privileged white liberal
or just a dumb word anyway
I watch a video of an Atlantic Puffin Colony
illuminated by a Scottish sunset on their evening
commute their bodies seem a little too puffy
to be capable of so much fishing and homing
which might be why it makes me sob
they are too perfect for my appreciation
but more likely it is the picture my husband
sends me yesterday of him and our dogs
on top of a mountain in the Rockies
and it actually looks like they are on the precipice
of heaven I text back immediately promise to take
me there when I get home but it’s gone
he’s gone out of service range and my message
hangs there sent but unanswered and my heart
beats nervous tics of all the other promises I know
I won’t ask of him like don’t ever leave me
don’t ever die let our dogs live forever too
and mostly just take me to see everything like this
By what migration it appeared
on our doorstep—flying blind, alone?—
the lifeless body interrupts a fight
we’ve not yet learned to avoid.
Uncertain which came first, silence
or anger, I gather the language I consider
sacred and let it burn from the inside
out. Now, the groceries my diversion,
I leave the bird where it lies—
feeble effort to plan dinner instead
of an ending.
– The bird’s one eye stays fixed
on me as I make several trips from car
to kitchen, stepping over the sleek black
body, not bending to stroke the velvet feathers.
My hand wrapped in a double plastic bag
I scoop the bird, finally, not gripping
its body, not hearing its muted thud
in the empty can beside our house.
I picture the hardest thing about flight—
not the probability of assault or getting lost,
but the fragile likelihood of soft landing.
When I tell my husband I need to write more
as we’re driving interstate 81 to McAfee Knob,
he says Write about the hummingbirds
we saw in the Monteverde cloud forest –
dozens of them swarming two feeders,
tourists snapping incessant photos.
I tell him a poem can never just be
about one thing—there must be layers,
implication, metaphor—But he insists,
Why can’t it just be about hummingbirds?
So I practice as we hike: the clearing of brush
mere space for dirt to feel midday heat,
our dogs like two children running ahead
to sniff and shit and wait for us to follow.
At the rocky overhang I heave my worries
into Blue Ridge air like fistfuls of coins, like leaves
or bits of bread. We ask a stranger to take
our picture at the tip of the Knob, then
we take hers too. I try not to wonder
why she’s alone. In the photos we look as if
we are levitating above the valley, two fools
on the lip of the ledge—tiny, hovering birds.
Sarah McCall is a poet and teacher and bartender, among other things. She holds an MFA from Old Dominion University, and lives in Richmond, VA, with her husband and their two dogs.