Blam Goes a Tufted Titmouse
by Ruth Weinstein

I see the sound BLAM in big bold balloon caps,
in comic-book pop-art bright primary colors,
in the asterisks ampersands and exclamation points
Roy Lichtenstein would use to cloak an avian superhero,
and go outside to seek a small feathered projectile—
a cardinal or one of subtler color—stunned but not dead,
I hope, on the deck outside my bedroom windows.

Nothing on the wooden boards or planting table,
no cat with little gray or brown bird in its mouth.
A quick scan reveals a tufted titmouse, hooked
at an odd angle to the screen door, where it landed
in rebound from the window and clutched the fine
metal mesh so hard that it cannot set itself free.

The obsidian bead of its eye pierces me.
I fear its tiny heart might beat too fast
in its chest if I touch it, this intricate machine
made for flight, but it struggles piteously.

I hold it with one hand, writing reassurance
in animal braille, and with the fingers of the other
I release curled claw toes from the web of screen.
I surround it with the loose yet firm clasp of freedom,
the cupped harbor of my own, now trembling, hands.

I blow warmth from my lungs onto its body and breathe
a good liftoff to launch it safely. Suddenly it knows that
it can fly again, and its gray white and rust-sided plumage,
its punk feathered-do, the prodigious sound it made,
its tribulation—all are gone as if nothing ever happened.
The window the screen door the deck bear no trace.
Only the electric vibrations of my still trembling hands.

PHOTO: Tufted titmouse by Jack Bulmer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in the autumn of 2021. The south wall of our bedroom is filled with windows, on which I have taped cutouts of hawk shapes and adhered butterfly decals to prevent songbirds from slamming into the windows when they mistake their own reflections for other birds. Many have broken their necks, one or two have been caught by now aging, no longer quick or agile, cats. If I hear the sound, I rush to the rescue. The sound this small bird made was so huge and visual and made a great prompt for a poem. The poem came together rather quickly. Somehow, a line from the old Roberta Flack song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” came to mind and the “trembling heart of a captive bird/that was there at my command” translated to “my trembling hands” holding a rescued bird. The event is a treasured memory of this avian save.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Weinstein is an octogenarian organic gardener who lives with her husband on 40 hard-scrabble acres in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Her back-to-the-land life is often at the center of her poetry and essays. A family history/memoir of her first 18 years, Back to the Land:  Alliance Colony to the Ozarks, was published in 2020 by Stockton University Press. In it, she connects the dots—beginning with her ancestors, who helped found America’s first successful, Jewish agricultural community in southern New Jersey in 1882—to her own chosen life of nearly 50 years. Her 10-poem collection, “The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey,” is the current third-place winner of the annual Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Poetry Prize, published by Poetica Publishing. Her poetry appears online and in print. Ruth is also a life-long textile artist who paints floor clothes, weaves, quilts, designs, and constructs one-of-a-kind clothing and articles for the home, as well as nonfunctional art pieces. Ruth has a low social media presence but can be found on Facebook. If interested in her memoir, please DM her for purchasing information. She urges that you do not buy books from Amazon if you can purchase them from the author.