—for Elizabeth Bishop Tuwee, calls a bird near the house, Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods. No wind, early September, beeches and pines, Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon, Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in Query and in response, a genetic libretto rehearsed Tens of thousands of years beginning to leave its indelible trace, Clawprint of language, ritual, dense winged seed, Or as someone were slowly buttoning a shirt. I am happy to lie in the grass and listen, as if at the dawn of reason, To the clear communal command That is flinging creaturely will into existence, Designing itself to desire survival, Liberty, companionship, Then the bird near me, my bird, stops inquiring, while the other Off in the woods continues calling faintly, but with that upward Inflection, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here, here, the call opens a path through boughs still clothed By foliage, until it sounds like entreaty, like anxiety, like life Imitating the pivotal move of Whitman’s "Out of the Cradle," Where the lovebird’s futile song to its absent mate teaches the child Death—which the ocean also whispers— Death, death, death it softly whispers, Like an old crone bending aside over a cradle, Whitman says, Or the like the teapot in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s kitchen, Here at one end of the chain of being, That whistles a song of presence and departure, Creating comfort but also calling for tears.
From No Heaven by Suskin Ostriker © 2005. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Date Published: 2005-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/birdcall