On the First Day She Made Birds

He asked me       if I had a choice
what kind of bird
would I choose to be.
I know what he thought I’d say
since he tried to        end
my sentences half the time
anyway. Something exotic
he thought. He thought
maybe macaw.
That would fit
all loudmouthed
and primary colored
he would think.
(He thinks too much
I always thought.)
But really       at heart
I’m more
don’t laugh now
     an L B J
          little brown job
except               except
I’m not the
flit        from
to        branch        type
such a waste
of energy all that
wing flap
and scritch scritch scratch.
Really now
can you see me
seed pod clamped
between my beak
like some landowner,
Havana cigar
between his teeth?
No         I think         not
I think
green heron.
You ask why?
That hunched look
wings tucked to neck
waiting        waiting
in the sun
on a wide slab of rock
alongside a slow river
like some old man
up from a bad night’s dream
where he’s seen his coffin
and you say to him
Have a nice day
and he says        Make me.
Oh          you want looks
I’ll give you
long olive green feathers
a trace of
I could stand
going out       iridescent
chestnut sides and head
a black crown
yes        a crown
something regal
to flash when you get
too close
dark bill         bright
yellow legs
and that creamy streak
down my throat and pecs
        not great
but good         pecs
just enough for a quick
hop to the next.
The best part
no sexual dimorphism
male         female
both alike
endless possibilities.

Diana García, “On the First Day She Made Birds” from When Living Was a Labor Camp. Copyright © 2000 by Diana Garcia. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.
Source: When Living Was a Labor Camp (University of Arizona Press, 2000)
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