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    Pliny told that migrating quails rested in such numbers on the
    sails of ships at night that the vessels were in danger of sinking.

    —from 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names

All night our ship creaks
and groans under the weight

of countless scale-bellied
quails. Bad luck to shoot

them—so fifty-two men
dream of drowning while

white-feathered crests sag
our rigging worse than any

wave. Still, death by bird
is not how we plan to go.

We pass some rot-gut wine
in the dark while the deck

turns slick with shit. Touching
crosses round their necks,

those who believe side with
drunks who think they see a pink

horizon, but dawn comes
only when it's ready. Then

the sailor who sees farthest
bows before the bevy of quails

rising reluctant but steady
toward their memories of stars.

Meg Kearney

Prairie Schooner

Winter 2013

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