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STILL MISSING THE JAYS

by Stanley Plumly

Then this afternoon, in the anonymous

winter hedge, I saw one. I’d just climbed,

in my sixty-year-old body—with its heart

attacks, kidney stones, torn Achilles tendon,

vague promises of ulcers, various subtle,

several visible permanent scars, ghost-

gray hair, long nights and longer silences,


impotence and liver spots, evident

translucence, sometime short-term memory loss—

I’d just climbed out of the car and there

it was, eye-level, looking at me, young,

bare blue, the crest and marking jewelry

penciled in, smaller than it would be

if it lasted but large enough to show

the dark adult and make its queedle

and complaint. It seemed to wait for me,

watching in that superciliary way

birds watch too. So I took it as a sign,

part spring, part survival. I hadn’t seen a jay

in years—I’d almost forgotten they existed.

Such obvious, quarrelsome, vivid birds

that turn the air around them crystalline.

Such crows, such ravens, such magpies!

Such bristling in the spyglass of the sun.

Yet this one, new in the world,

softer, plainer, curious. I tried

to match its patience, not to move,

though when it disappeared to higher ground,

I had the thought that if I opened up my hand—

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1939, Stanley Plumly is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. HIs poetry has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, American Poetry Review, New Yorker, New York Times, and Paris Review. In 2009, Plumly was named Poet Laureate for the State of Maryland. He has received many awards and honors for his work, including six Pushcart Prizes and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Photo: “Baby Blue Jay” by Drewcjm, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Photographer’s note: This baby Blue Jay fell out of a tree while trying to fly on May 14, 2011. Photo shot in the Merchants Walk parking lot, Lakeland, Florida.