The magpie comes and all I can think is
beauty, beauty, though you said
it is a junk bird, though its commonness
makes most ignore it: the blue bands
vibrant against the oil black, the white
chest and belly, the glistening eye
and its feet like rotted arteries branching
off into snow: this is how thin
they are in the world, this is how wretched
and delicate. And the ugly gurgle
at the back of its throat, how it is always
laughing like a broken kettle,
and yet there it is still: beauty, beauty
and I am charmed
by what the bird cannot help but do with its long
sweep of tail, its startling accusations
of color: not like the twelve drab quail I've seen
parading the street early evening,
dust-streaked adolescents drunk
from feasting on the neighbor's berries.
They are so fat and stupid these birds,
I cannot love them
for the little comma of feather bobbing
on their heads. I cannot love them
for the way they insist on running
as a means of first escape until,
at last, in one great muffled clap
they rise, and the sound
of their winging is a dull thunder,
a thousand bed sheets
pulled from the line and shaken together.
Then I can love them, as I love the garden
with its pockets of stone, forgetting the warning
others would give of starting
what must be abandoned
too soon or too late, as we are ourselves
too soon or too late: the problem of beauty
being how it must be always
distant, observable, taken apart.
As if preference were all that marked us:
pale ridgelines of grasses darkening out
into blades of bloodó
It would be easier, always, to imagine
how unlike we are than see
how we have put our own needs in the other's
mouth. Watch with me. I am the one
who ignores the magpie, garden,
the commonness of a world that can't
keep its favors secret. I am the one
abandoning the vision
that preens outside this window, calling itself
beauty, beauty as if I must name it, as if
I must name you and me
opposed or part of it:
we are ourselves, always,
just outside the definition.
If there is a taste,
a border, a particularity,
then what are we to each other?
I come closer.
The garden is changing. Fat buds
spill in the sun, redden greedily at the tips.
Look: another row of poppies opens.
And in their yellow cups, bees.
University of Pittsburgh Press
Copyright © 2012 by Paisley Rekdal
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission