The fire pushes the air upward and pushes you you get so old. You catch herrings and smelts. You put them on the table.
Unusual in not being colonial, nesting instead in isolated locations on mountain tops,
Such opulence! As you can touch what you know, all the words for it, with their eyes
trembling in the hands of the ornithologist, the loneliness of being held by someone studying you.
One of the least known of auks, breeding on bare ground near snowfields, all our niches reflecting bad choices.
When you get there because you’re dead you catch fire the trees around you catch fire.
Everyone’s on fire the fire encourages us to become companions, the drops of our sorrow
become murrelets, mottled brown, buff and white they abandon us for the ocean we see the bright sea rim.
What remains? What garment beauties you, wilds you, browns you, golds you, wealthy you?
They lay their eggs in crevices, the chicks are helpless so both parents feed them.
When you are born your debts are discharged but your obligations grow we belong to one another in this world.
To fragile these murrelets, directly affected by cruise-ships, which causes them to abandon their feeding areas, and gillnet fishing, killing them as bycatch.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed as much as ten percent of the world population.
Where we live now the sea leaves dust in our clothes, which we sell thinking of them, their short, forceful, whistle-like notes.
Flying you become old it gets easier; time comes to you, it won’t weigh you down.
And soon, wherever you go, you’ll never find them, anywhere.
I’m robin-sized, jocular if lacking talons I’m resourceful untroubled so unknowable and
it’s winter, only winter, all the snakes are sleeping, I think about them they don’t think about me.
It is understanding, and saying everything that wasn’t said by the snakes first. Cracks in the ice
like smiles I eat monarchs I hang them upside down for days until the poison runs out.
A shrike and her shrike, you can’t say who is following who, you’re always choosing the wrong side.
Or you’re sure your side needs you, it sells everything about you for three pennies. Look, they’re just throwing pennies away these days.
Some glittering where the crows dropped them. The snakes trail below us into the spring we’ll eat one or two.
And I like it when they plow the fields, you tell me be quiet I’m busy migrating north.
I prefer going south! I’m an artist; when I’m in love I make sculptures I decorate prey with feathers and bird bills,
representations of my sexiness that overcome all criticism so we’ll fuck constantly and raise lots of chicks,
anyways I’m thinking of answering other questions than the ones you ask. The wondering of blood,
all those names making them one name, nests on top of nests concealed in thorn trees amidst trophies.
I’ve got a curved beak if you look closely I’m also noble from nearby territories
I’ll cross all sorts of boundaries to help defend another shrike family’s young.
We will raise our children to love one another, we will raise our children to be great shrikes,
and with wondrous kindness to impale everything else on barbed wire.
When you’re finally awake you’re alone, not in the dark but faster in the dark feeding them
in the ground, in your head in the wave where you stand surrounded by birds feeding them.
Crickets come out of your pockets you push them back in they chirp and give you away; you
walk like you’ve been released from all your debts, like you don’t care nobody knows you.
Found near wetlands, lakes or creeks, reservoirs, saltworks, sewage farms, margins.
On February 7, 2004, two and a half million converged on a single beach in Australia.
The word is flood and light seeping forth. Going which is capped and more shut. The light which
trees unselfconscious birds when you stay in the car they don’t mind you. Turn off the gain ryder. Turn off the crown amplifier.
My stepfather used to beat the shit out of me; I didn’t speak to him for years. He no longer
terrifies me, I’m not going to be like him, it’s not fair I still think about him he doesn’t deserve my thoughts.
More ordinary so blending if you pay attention that’s good or if it rains you run inside; you’re
frightened you live in an age more vulnerable to compression and amplification. You master languages so no one speaks.
We have big rain events in the north we can expect a huge explosion in the oriental pratincole population.
We may see large numbers once again this year. We might not. I hate that.
It’s miraculous because it’s fancy, the ability to choose, to take pleasure in choosing
and you increasingly value that aspect of your imagination. Often crepuscular, delights in eating crickets.
Like smoke. Nesting after grassfires. Getting up or standing, but not good at lying, sitting up
is ok. He won’t try out my hats, he’s still alive and he won’t wear my hat. I hate that too.
Released from their pronouns, from expectations of self, spread out around the Indian and Pacific oceans;
somehow all of them get the same idea to show up at the same place at the same time.
He’ll pose, he’ll sleep on his feet and point to one of those, so we know there’s so many of them.
He’ll say after you’re dead you can’t remember pain of course I can I say he says you can’t we argue
I punch him in the face he just stares like he doesn’t know who I am.
It’s easier to write about birds.
A loud and constant chirper, very social animals and take frequent baths in small groups
they eat throughout the day as brides they abjure all whitenesses in their garments
and often congregate or look around to see who’s around the men and women look the same
but they are so organized you can’t tell why they act the way they do. Before I was born
we were taken by the hand and led down the street to the store where our first clothes hung in the shop window;
I knew who I was I belonged to you; you dressed us and undressed us, I was patient it took years.
I memorized and forgot, I didn’t spend too much time looking. We’re renowned for our sleep positions we sit side-by-side
and turn our faces in towards each other. That way your breath puts me to sleep, I’m dreaming your breath puts me to sleep.
Escapes from captivity are frequent in many parts of the world and feral rosy-faced lovebirds
dwell in Phoenix, Arizona where they live in a variety of habitats.
Some dwell in cacti and others have been known to frequent feeders in decent sized flocks.
It’s not like I’m incoherent and I’m looking for someone to fix me.
The lovebirds sing we’re not little birds we’re not in the way of the littleness we puff up
we’re self-sustaining we got buddies we got flocks we don’t have to fly in your house.
When you were a kid you took care of a lovebird, her name was Farley Wallbanger,
she was a girl she kept telling you but you couldn’t tell; don’t spend too much time looking for a wife
she kept saying, before I breathed my first breath I was a bride, I knew who I was and I knew I belonged.
If you really wish to act, then you have to knock on the door, if you really want to, then you have to stand before the door.
But I want to fly in your house. You don’t know what to do with all the sky you got so you live in a house.
You should have a flock, then you don’t have to live in a house. So since we’re already lovers, I’m going to fly in your house.
Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press), as well as three Dusie chapbooks, Sorcery, Good Morning! and The Sound of Music. Bird poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from such places as Spork, Fence, South Dakota Review, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review and Ping-Pong. A member of the non-ranked faculty collective bargaining team at California College of the Arts, he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.
Featured Image Credit: Mary Behm-Steinberg