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Clothespins on the Line

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                            look like birds. Scrawny
winter   birds   balanced by   two   sarong

                                                      tail   feathers.   Some   look west,
                                        others north-

east   toward   the
                                            mountain.   Stiff in the   cold &

remote.   They  haven’t  been   loved
                                                        enough.   They grow

                                           thinner   and thinner   in their   woody
streaked   feathers,   held together  only   by

the exposed   spiral   of   internal
                                        organs.   After  a  while ,   the sun comes

out and   all o f   the birds,   clutching   wire,   turn
                          an     electric            silver.

This is     hopeful,,    but doesn’t   last.         Clouds
  take a  break   from   one   another , ,

                          convene.   A half-inch of

snow is rolled out   with   perfect    evenness
              across               the picnic   table,   as though

                                                        someone made a blank
                                                     for what was

                coming.    The nice thing
about   clothespin    birds   is             they   don’t

                           Jays   &   grosbeaks   &   finches

&      mourning    doves    + ravens   leave
                their   paintings

                everywhere , on   benches & limbs ,, , on fallen
pine needle fascicles \|/                    feldspar & quartz _ __

though   all  has  now   become
gesso    beneath    snow.   After   a  certain amount   of

                hopelessly under-

                         accomplished,   you look at   your   nails
and   want   to
                         paint them.         Is this how   birds

              feel?                 No.         Birds fly
and   don’t    look

                       down.      Or,   they   sit   `’’   amid branches
             and    peck   at the   brittle   waffled   bark

                         & tiny    bugs    buried
              in   the marrow.  .< sszt sszt sszt .<   You, too,

peck.  Familiar letters    on t he   keys have   lost
their    definition        and   resemble   finger-

                            tip-size   daubs of   bird   paint   on back-
               lit platforms.   You   recall the   s   e   &   m

only   via   entrenched   neural   pathways ,
            while   the   l   and   c      continue to

morph   into tiny   archaic
                             symbols.    As though,  the  unconscious

is forming      a message.       ( Always   “it”   has   something
                       unearthly     to say. ) Except

the unconscious   is
                                        the earth ,    it’s   just   we

don’t  know   how   she               does it.

           St. Thomas of Aquinas  got  a delirium

                                     hit of   t hat   at the end
          and decided  to   marry   it.   Each day

your thumbs   grow   paler,   nails   coarser,   evolving
             toward   the ptero-

                                dactyl: part  reptile,  part   bird.
As  a  child

                        pterodactyls   scared you,         which meant
            they   had  your             attention.   Refusing to stay

                        in   the   lineage,         they became
                                      their  own            form.

             They had  an  iguana       for     a     father
and  a   pelican   for  a    mom,

crispy  and  dipped  in  molasses.
If you were big enough

                                      you could   eat   them
                          the  way   some people   eat grass-

          hoppers.  Compulsive hole-
                         punchers,  if less   manic

could be    sculptors,
             though it requires d-e-t-a-c-h-m-e-n-t

to see  it    that way , , if  you  are
                                        a   lilac   leaf   sketching   outside

the   library   window.        What are those    books
               doing   in there   together ?!                  Nothing !

When a   new    one arrives,   they   fall  in
               love,,  one   by one.  Inside  their  covers,

                           a   million   leaves, each
w/  black   growth.     A pattern of       fungus ,

               the  shed  skin  of          snakes  &  dna
traces.   Like   bird   poop,

but   more orderly     and the message is   see-
                                                   through. Don’t you

             wish    you   could   lift   the   letters
                         and   release them       halfway

               back   to
the  liquid   state ,, ,   before they   got   connected   to

the   circuitry?   It might be    kind   of
                                      relaxing.  You might be

                                                                as good of a

             as a         cuckoo    bird.    A few nights   ago
you  dreamt   you were very     pregnant &

in need of    a  place       to give   birth.   Your  boyfriend
              had   left         you     and  2    therapists

                         let   you    live         w/ them
because   you    resembled   their     daughter  — 

though they were     suspicious.   Who    can blame  them?
                                                       As for your nails,

                                 find  a     mani-
curist,   someone  who   knows   what they are

            doing.  Druids never  lived   here,
            that was    Europe,    but  you

and   the   sage-

             are   distantly   related      via     microbial
ancestors;         in spite of    yourself,   you are

by   family.   \\|/

Source: Poetry (April 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Clothespins on the Line

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