Friday Nov 24

SandyTseng-creditMarkChen Sandy Tseng is the author of Sediment, published by Four Way Books in October 2009. Among her awards are The Nation's Discovery Award, the Louis Untermeyer Tuition Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Vira I. Heinz Foundation scholarship. She has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Fugue, Hunger Mountain, The Nation, Third Coast, and other journals. She teaches at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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Movement of the Birds

I.

Lately flocks of geese
follow the melting snowline.

The ground warms just
enough to come alive.
All the daffodils and tulips.
Clover, bluegrass, timothy.

The snow melts as
it reaches us. It turns into rain.

The coming geese are faint
black lines. V-shaped
formations in the sky.

We are all like birds
in a constant state of departure.

There are records of
where we've lived, people from our lives
meeting unexpectedly.

Our movements are larger than we are.

We know the departure is coming.
We expect it—

lines of birds flying into the foothills,
aspen leaves fluttering in the rain.

II.

The robin builds a nest
with pieces and fragments.
Each time she arrives with a small pinch
of dried grass or mud.

Everywhere the wild birds are gathering
what we have scattered.

The wind is a voice among us.

People constantly coming and going.

Accidents occur in ways that have
nothing and everything to do with us.

We watch for the parents
as they circle the house. Beaks
parted in the summer heat.

We make an offering basket.

They start building again. All day long
they are singing and mating.

The birds forget how they flew
from window to window. The birds
have forgiven us.

A song rises
from the leaves on the ground.

III.

Wood chips fall by the window
where the woodpecker chisels
into the crevices of the tree.

The tapping wakes us. From inside
it sounds like faint hammering.

Constant knocking. The feeling
that something we don't have time for
is trying to enter our lives.

People from another time
looking for us in the same houses.

We don't have to explain ourselves.

We watch as the bird picks out insects
with a swift tongue. Does she pick
some and not others?

All around us are other birds
in the pine forest.

We continue to hear
the drumming on dead trees.

IV.

The chickens approach us.
They peck softly at our hands
with clipped beaks.

We gather the eggs
still warm to the touch.

We distinguish them
from one another:
the one with gold feathers
around the neckline,
the one who is brown and white.

At dusk the birds
head toward the coop
in clusters, heads nodding
steadily as they walk.

We put them away
like putting children to bed.
Two hands on the wings
as we lift them. They feel light
in our hands. All feathers
and breath in their lungs.

They recognize us
by our hands and voices.
We imagine them giving us
names: the one who opens
the gate in the mornings,
the one who sits
in the grass reading.

There's a flutter of wings
as they settle in

and the soft clucking
that accompanies us to sleep

and through the next day—
the sound we hear as we decide
what we can bear to eat
and what we cannot.

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Photo by Mark Chen