Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


To the Cardinal, Attacking His Reflection in the Window

“It is your very self” I tell him.  
He has never seen me.  

His quick coin of breath disappears on the glass as it forms: air 
that feeds his bones their portion

willingly as it feeds mine.  He spends his here, 
besieged by the dull birds who gather 

and whom he cannot touch, his own feathers 
red as wrought blood.  

Dear bird, how many selves 
must you vanquish? 

In the mornings, his wings are backlit.  They are beating, 
delicate, cruciform, hollow feather, hollow bone.  

In the blizzard his furor is the only color, 
the only shape.  He is waiting 

for the coward to come out.  There is nothing 
all winter he has saved to eat.  

I saw a female the day before he disappeared.  
Her beak just as orange, her body, calm, watched his.  

I made voices for her: variations on the pride 
and hemmed patience of women I’d known 

whose husbands did insistent, strong, 
and strange things.  Maybe she knew it was spring.  I didn’t.  

The next day he came once 
to throw the bright dime of his life to the walled world, 

as if to make sure 
it was not feather against feather that hurt him. 

Credit


Copyright © 2017 by Leah Naomi Green. Originally published in Pleiades, Summer 2017. Used with permission of the author.

Author


Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green’s first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast (Graywolf Press, 2020), was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2017-09-06

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/cardinal-attacking-his-reflection-window