Winter 1994, Volume 11.1

What birds dream

See other poetry written by James Poulakos and published by
Weber StudiesVol. 13.3.


The winter dream of birds is simplest:
they circle and dip over holes in the ground
that spout hot breath and tease their wings
with rippling feelers of liquid air
spiraling upwards in the cold gruel sky,
buoying the birds away, a transparent geyser.

They dream about a tent-top ground
billowing up at them in the spring,
and of resting their feet for a while, fearless
and still in the hissing waves of grass,
safely hidden between the tossing crests.
They dream of padding across an island of dirt,
and bravely strutting down into the cool pool
of a valley, neckdeep in the chill motionless air.
They recline like apes, their feathers smoothed
comfortably against the roots of a spreading tree.

In summer they dream of planting their feet
in the heavy shade of the honeysuckle,
toes thrust into the soil
and curled like viny fists
into the mulch: water draws through their legs
like straws and fills their outspread wings.
A cool run of glassy sensation swells in them.
Each bird surrenders its saffron beak, open
to the sky, to the mothering bees
hovering in the shade of the honeysuckle.

Every fall they dream of birds littering the ground,
clustered around stones and the roots of trees
with rigid legs splayed up and out like bent stems,
lying dry on the grey husks of papery wings,
The wind rustles them, and they flow
along together, gathered in drifts,
smoothly cruising over the humps and ridges
of the earth, cornered into culverts
and sifted into the shriveled underbrush ...