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Closer


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.


Paisley Rekdal

Animal Eye
University of Pittsburgh Press


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