Mockingbird (Mimus Polyglottos)
I had to draw you in third grade —
a report on Florida, my home state then.
Looked in books, didn’t like the flatness,
lack of color, so sought you in the yard,
rewarded by sudden vocal flourish,
clean as the sun’s flaming disc
in the tropical sky. No one can
trap your beauty on paper. Graceful twists,
curious angled head, feather flutter soft.
White stripe of wing. Sly copyist,
copycat, derivative virtuoso
elegantly arrayed in gray and white —
au fait like the nun who taught me,
her voice hung in the air like yours.
Secret messages from God.
I knew all birds once I knew you,
uberbird, condensed history of music,
your knowing lentil eye. You knew me.
Stared at me, saucy songster, head cocked,
more brilliant and beautiful than I would ever be.
A bird aptly chosen and laughing
for this land which also mocks us —
the sun’s burning rays, the leaden air,
the flood of migratory bodies from duller climes…
you are wiser, don’t have to travel
with your pearly gray and white, never
tiring slender leg and so
quick, quick on the wing.
Your song — who needs other birds,
you can do them all, I listen for you still.
Sing to me sister, brother, mother,
father, friend — you have my gratitude.
Take me away with you…
give me some of your wildness,
give me your voice, your bright eye.
You know what you like,
you can hear something once
and sing about it forever. Your music helped
when Mommy reeked of whiskey
and tried to snuggle in bed with me.
Where does an eight-year-old
learn to send that kind of love away?
I cried that night but you sang to me
in the morning. You watched me swing
from the holly tree, you were there
when everything happened,
you saw it all and sang your tunes,
gave me the comfort of lovely noise
to fill my head when all around was ugly.
You were nursemaid to my heart.