The birds are here to root around for bread the girl’s hands tear

When I first encountered this gorgeous poem by Jamaal May (1982-), I left it open in a browser tab and probably read it at least once a week.

 jamaal_may_0

“There Are Birds Here”
For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.

You are a bird-understander better than I could ever be

I was introduced to Craig Arnold‘s work about a year after he disappeared while hiking on a small volcanic island in Japan in 2009. I’m having trouble choosing just one selection from his gorgeously raw last collection, Made Flesh, so here is another poem of his that I love.

craig_arnold

“Bird-Understander”

Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal     all the people
ignoring it     because they do not know
what to do with it     except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or     (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird     and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me     I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not