I know it’s a sparrow but put on my glasses
to see it, anyway, stare at the redbud not knowing
the name but knowing I’ll look it up later
for this poem, this post-Romantic, post-Freudian
poem emerging now from my hopefully
creative and possibly dangerous unconscious
which is the source of my highly-individualized
creative power. What about that Romantic poet
who said that poets should know the names
of plants and birds? I learned French,
sort of, by memorizing Jaques Prévert poems,
though never any of the left- wing populist plays
he made with Groupe Octobre. I buried
my parrot last week and couldn’t remember our
standard, goodnight routine, a seasonal list
poem of recently-sighted birds. The sad context
made me forget, though of course
I think about death every night, but I can’t
function if I think about it too closely when I sing
my parrot or babies to sleep. If I ever speak
at a memorial I will not speak from memory.
But now I remember the poem.
It begins with dabbling ducks and diving ducks,
then migrating and non-migrating shore birds,
then migrating songbirds, then familiar backyard
birds. The finches we’ve seen at the feeder this year
are purple finches, not house finches. No one has ever
described me as pursuing a problem with unbelievable
obstinacy, but “relentless” is one of my favorite
adjectives. Relentless love. Relentless interest.
Whatever. Was it Coleridge who said that
poets should know the names of plants and birds?
Or just flowers and songbirds, specifically?
I think Coleridge wrote about the imagination,
or had feelings about it. Certainly Coleridge had feelings.
I’ve taken my glasses off and I’m tired. The bird
I’m hearing is a sparrow, several. Now a crow. Now
a mockingbird. Now a sparrow, again.