Jennifer Bartlett



A Field Guide to Flying

Flight 1:

She and the children pretend to be
birds. They look at their relatives
through the sliding glass door. They
look them up in the book.

The yard becomes a spectacular aviary
proving that nature can adjust to any
set of circumstances.

Birds flit branch to branch
telling the boy their story.
He studies their tiny bird-boned bodies,
how they might memorize flight.

The world is round.

He sorts the birds by color.
The brown one is the female;
she is always less interesting.
He believes the fact that the male
eats the bright red berries—
berries that remain red even in winter—
are what make the male glow.

The bird hides beneath the branches.
It seems to suffer, but he cannot
be sure. He can only affix his own
rative to it.

The world is white.

The snow weighs heavily,
the branches bow and startle,
failing in their attempt
to hide the poor bird.
Let’s bring him in and make
him a cheese sandwich!


Flight 2:

We disagreed over
how to use the wilted fruit,
or whether it should be used at all.

I made a list in my notebook.
It said: money, jeff hoover,
rachel, groceries, lesson plan,
and, typically, when each thing
was done, I crossed it off.

That night, I dreamt the cardinal
was building her nest. I was sure
I saw her with a twig in her mouth.
She does all the work!
Still, he’s a good husband
and so pretty too —
not a dead beat dad
like some of those other birds.

She's the queen of multitasking.
Otherwise, how could she lay all
those eggs? She hopes the children all
make it this year.

They are born and instantly
their mouths turn North in hunger.
Perhaps all mothers should ignore their
children for art or its approximation.



Flight 3:

Fred refuses to let
Frances sleep alone.
Perhaps he sees he it as
a reflection on his manhood
or perhaps he is just lonely.
So, they crowd the nest
with all those fuckin' eggs
and she doesn’t get a wink in.

When sleep finally arrives
her re-occurring dreams
are of migration.



Flight 4:

There are over 75 species
in Central Park at any given time.

The world is a machine.
It makes things magic.

I am merely its document.

After lunch, we rambled into the Ramble
hoping to see some birds or
boys looking for other boys.
Instead, we saw Marcella and Rich
lingering near the woodpeckers.

Why is it that poets cling so dearly
to this idea of flight?



Flight 5:

Outside the school,
a sparrow swoops down
picking at an abandoned chicken bone:
Here, even birds refuse
any system of decorum. 
Cannibalism is the accepted

Negativity breeds negativity.

Today, I will count the bad things
that tend to happen: or perhaps
pretend I am somewhere
where someone cares about something.

We will drown in this caring.



Flight 6:

Fishermen chatter endlessly.
Perhaps this is why Jesus
had so much to say.

The world is calm;
The surreal world.

On the ocean, ocean birds
make boats of their bodies.



Flight 7:

Birds are larger here.

Gray doves reflect the dust
all around. Guinea hens
stand on the fence trying
to get a piece of the action,
unaware of their awkward immensity.

The mother cowers in the corner,
her wing momentarily broken.

The boy’s going to drink non-organic
milk! Next thing you know he’ll
be in Rikers!  

He dreams of his mother’s
bird-like wrists ­­--
her flawed hands.

Oh, how she is tied to this earth.