magpie-on-a-red-leave-branch
WAITING FOR THE MAGPIE
by Matt Daly

I am waiting for the magpie
to start speaking in a language
I can understand, a language
less black and white
than the body of the magpie. I am waiting
for my ears to hear
the language the magpie is already speaking
is less black and white
than translations put forward
by the experts I have heard.

I am waiting for the magpie to tell me something
about that gray-suited boy
who flapped all the colors of his flag – the green
and white and red of it,
the eagle and the snake of it,
the cactus on the rock above the lake of it
– about that boy who flapped
his flag before the girl who nearly died
from the bullet that those men
put in her head

because she wanted to put words into her head
so she put them there. I am waiting
for the magpie to say, “Why are you waiting?”
I am waiting for the magpie to say
its black is iridescent, so the white
must be more than plain,
it must be like the hints
of opal my son and I didn’t wait for
but went out and gathered from the slag pile
by the café by the freeway

in the opal capital of America –
Spencer, Idaho, population 37.
I am waiting for more than the magpie
and the opal, and the girl who couldn’t wait
to read so she started reading,
and the glinting glasses of the Mexican boy
who was not taken by the police,
on orders from the mayor,
to the killers to the pit where his body
waited to be burned. I am waiting for more

than 37 hopes to shimmer
on any given day. I am waiting
for the world to shimmer,
like a flag, in the language that holds the magpie
to the spruce tree, and the spruce tree
to the ground, and all the flecks
shimmering in the darkness, waiting
for all the roots to draw them up
and transform them into every size,
shape and color of the leaves.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Reading the Ferlinghetti poem [“I Am Waiting“] was a kick-in-the-ass reminder that ideas need energy to break out of the ho-hum rumble of talk bombarding us each time we look at a screen. It was a knuckle-wrap-to-the-forehead reminder that if I want to write a poem anyone will read, I’d better give some life to it. I read Ferlinghetti, looked outside, and saw a magpie in the spruce tree in the front yard, and away we went. Hope you enjoy what emerged from the branches.

IMAGE: “Magpie on a Red-Leaf Branch” by Xu Beihong (1895-1953).

Matt Daly1

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matt Daly’s poetry appears in Clerestory, The Cortland Review, Pilgrimage, and elsewhere. He is the author of Wild Nature and the Human Spirit: a Field Guide to Journal Writing in Nature and has published short fiction and essays in publications including: To Everything On Earth, Wyoming Fence Lines, and Stories of the Wild. Matt leads creative writing residencies for middle and high school students in various Wyoming communities. He teaches composition at Central Wyoming College’s Jackson Outreach Center, and is on the faculty of a weeklong Harvard Medical School Continuing Medical Education course in Orvieto, Italy. In 2013, he received a creative writing fellowship in poetry from the Wyoming Arts Council. Matt lives in Jackson Hole with his wife and son.