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How to Identify a Bird
by Laurel Benjamin

Focus on the orange beak, a crusher,
take your time, turn the nobs
oriented left to right—
see the racing stripe head, a bullet,
puff of white black white
flight action.
Zoom out from the golden
morning tree among white corollas
to bird frock a holiday suit,
dive and land.
I’ve studied the dynasty of devotion
among bird families,
a queenship of no solitary taste.
Now look from the side,
narrow as a finger, almost
disconsolate, almost tearful,
like a bride without like flesh,
without sugar breath.
From the front, view the open eyes,
too dilated, streaked neck,
hints of wing stripes, tan breast
no one can contest.
Or are there too many details
like a Victorian instruction book?
I set my eyes forward
to meet the bird’s as if
I the mother
eggs underneath, a little boudoir
with a dainty chair, house
with many breasted chicks.
Kneel down greenly
hour to hour,
employ a knowingness.
Like a fruit fully ripe, never rotting
on the vine, the feathered fabric,
not musk nor silk,
never peels back.
Tail flicks, throat opens,
verse a whistle followed by
a sharp explosive
chink.

PAINTING: A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills by Georgia O’Keeffe (1946).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since the pandemic, I have gained a higher level of birdwatching, something that’s both intellectual and emotional, connecting with the birds, as never before.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Benjamin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s PoetryCalifornia Quarterly, The Midway Review, Mac Queens Quinterly, Poetry and Places, WordFest Anthology, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue, including honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Poetry Contest 2017 and 2020, long-listed in Sunspot Literary Journal’s long list, among others. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. More of her work can be found at thebadgerpress.blogspot.com.