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  4. Grubbing by Gabriel Spera

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The jay’s up early, and attacks the lawn
with something of that fervor and despair
of one whose keys are not where they always are,
checking the same spots over and again
till something new or overlooked appears—
an armored pillbug, or a husk of grain.
He flits with it home, where his mate beds down,
her stern tail feathers jutting from the nest
like a spoon handle from a breakfast bowl.
The quickest lover’s peck, and he’s paroled
again to stalk the sodgrass, cockheaded, obsessed.
He must get something from his selfless work—
joy, or reprieve, or a satisfying sense
of obligation dutifully dispensed.
Unless, of course, he’s just a bird, with beaks—
too many beaks—to fill, in no way possessed
of traits or demons humans might devise,
his dark not filled with could-have-beens and whys.

Poem copyright ©2012 by Gabriel Spera from his most recent book of poems, The Rigid Body, Ashland Poetry Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Gabriel Spera and the publisher.
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  • Poet Gabriel Spera was born in Staten Island and grew up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He earned a BA in English from Cornell University and an MFA in poetry from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where he received the Randall Jarrell Fellowship.

    Spera’s narrative poems are often framed in rhyme and meter and explore natural and domestic themes. In an interview with Brian Brodeur, Spera described his allegiance to honesty over truth, stating, “[O]ne of the virtues of art is that it helps prevent the powerful from rewriting history, from recasting the truth. Documents can be destroyed or manipulated, witnesses can be silenced—but it’s impossible to eradicate a work of art—particularly poetry—once it has found its way into society’s collective imagination.”

    Spera’s debut collection, The Standing Wave (2003), was chosen for the National Poetry Series and won the PEN Center/USA Literary Book Award for Poetry. His poems have...

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