Jan/Feb 2006 Poetry Special Feature

Bird Girl

by Jennifer Finstrom

Bird Girl

You belong in an orphanage, not
outside my window. Even in summer
you wore that purple coat and wool hat,
your jeans too baggy, your face skull-narrow,
incomplete as an eggshell. Pigeons swoop
in a greedy cloud, and I know that you
have summoned them with seed
from the depths of that vile bag
that dangles like a purse from your wrist.

Your hair is lank rope, your eyes
a shattered window. I can't even
imagine that you live in a house and
that frightens me, because in some other
world I know you're me, that I'm
the one out in the cold. There must
be a hundred birds dropping out
of the sky. Their homes are secret too,
hidden in the gray world at the heart
of the living city.

It's winter now and the birds are hungry.
Before turning from the window,
I look through their eyes and see
a woman veiled by feathers,
a goddess scattering millet and thistle
with a flick of her shining wrist.
I lock the door on warmth and step
outside. We pass on the sidewalk;
when I climb on the bus, you stay
behind. I try to meet your eyes, but only
the seed in your hand is real. The sparrows
hop at your feet like little blessings.


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