I am moving away but now stand still,
searching these trees for a sign that I am well.
A flicker in the low-angled light—
a red-armpitted, ermine-robed woodpecker
bouncing slender branches
of the white lilac tree.
I am used to the one-footed Stellar’s jay,
who ambles from one feeder to the next,
and visits only when the starlings and chickadees are away
as if his pride makes him solitary.
I often imagine the space where his bone ends in air,
wonder if birds feel phantom limb.
To touch that place, to append him with my own flesh—
My environmental erotics.
Chickadees flock the feeders year-round,
black-capped like my pen. I somersault with them,
my mouth and nose a beak, feel them preen my skin under feathers.
The house finches warble and take turns.
Sometimes, they pinch the vines of my hanging baskets,
but the vines aren’t for nest-building. It’s a game:
They grab slender vines between beaks and flick.
They seem to laugh, a joke only house finches get.
Today, searching trees for a sign that I am well,
the foot-high, red-shafted northern flicker
rubbed his long black beak on the bark,
and yelled at the sky,
as if it set him down in the wrong place.
The bird guide says, Very common.
This poem appears in my collection, Broom of Anger.