Amy Herschleb


Field Guide to Birds


Right before I go blind I make a record
          of the last bird ever seen:
like a fat honey-ricotta empanada on the
          unseasonably green sauce of February.
Tomatillo. It must have driven down on
          the jet stream, Minnesota plates,
still dressed for snow.

Today I open neither eye & sit in the window,
          not talking to the dictaphone. I can
hear you sitting at the edge of the bed.
          I believe in paralanguage! &
your hands clasped between your
          knees would tell me, would flinch
and I'd know you needed a beer, a
          lessening of pain, or describe "don't
fall out the window" where my body
          can feel two different qualities of light,
both high up.

I dream in hawks & their orthography.
          You once asked what I meant by them
& I couldn't answer. There are clawprints
          in our dust, the places feathers beat back
against it, runes and that song
          from The Hobbit, 1977. If I had a beak
I would tear your meat, flex my talons,
          and scream over your carcass.




in a post-bird world


my children look for the idea
          of Easter eggs
the Form in the clouds
in the same way we search for ticks
          or suspect moles

I never planned to be a good mother
but plans change
          hearts change
          planes change course
& destroy their destinations

the border between apprehension
          & paranoia: I'll wait here
until the birds stop singing
a signal of storm, unless I am
          myself a fool

every sound is after-image
          ash, echo
the percussed eardrum after a show
          smile, "I can't hear you"
& aren't we all so much more interesting
that way?




watching a vacuum cleaner commercial at an upscale dentist's office i fantasize i am that woman. why wouldn't i


she is not kept awake, obsessing about
her lover's teeth, her own dental history,
despairing over speculative children—
"oh my god we'll never be able to afford the braces"

she does not track and consider relative
viscosity of mucus, i doubt she has it,
like a water table rising and falling
and sloshing, no womb, no wellspring

scratch that. a artesian well, a flourishing
garden, a gourmet kitchen, white
carpets & couches, cocktail parties
where no one gets bent or yells

a mother-in-law who bakes pies
and takes care of the kids when
she dines out with her husband
who has the nicely starched collar

ain't that the best of it. high threadcount
sheets. a pillow that never flattens.
her tv gets every channel & no
reruns. her smile is natural

& when it rains her past doesn't
leak out of the index
like so many
fossils crowning
in their bed
of sedimentary rock