Today's poem is by Tyler Mills

This bird is just imitating people imitating crows
                                                                              —Why Birds Sing

The story involves a whole village kept busy
making earthenware jars while the hurricane
a hundred miles offshore kicks up the oily green ocean
and the only two people who won't escape
are sweating in an abandoned stable the rain slashes.
They are naked and touch the dirt floor with their fingers,
thinking someone is about to pull open the door.
Characters can't know the real crisis: Dorothy doesn't remember
Lion being the farmhand who pulled her from the pigpen
before she glittered the dead witch's shoes—
glint, glint, glint—back to where she began.
But in real life, the cherry picker parked across from the post office
extends its silver basket. The tiny human figure
looks like he stands in a toothbrush cap up there
and he's reaching for the black seam dangling the stoplights
when a car hits the truck and the crane swerves the man,
and he falls. He dies. What then? We can only control
some stories: babysitting, I would turn three pages at once
during the fifth bedtime book until the girl sitting on my lap
asked about the train and why this time the conductor didn't wait.
I would be caught, like now, when I am nowhere but pretending to be
standing in the Pittsburgh Aviary watching flamingos
step through a pond, the white plastic pipes churning, bubbling the surface.
One cartoon pink leg lifts a wet claw, dips it back,
stepping into the ventilated wind with the others
like plastic flamingo lawn ornaments our friend staked in his lawn
and switched around at dusk—-sometimes three turning their backs to one,
sometimes all seven forms seeming to proceed to the curb in the fog—
as though the neighbors would have to consider
the ornaments becoming birds and moving themselves.
This is suggested plot, though, like when a child
asks you to keep the bedroom door open
after you tuck her in so (you think) the vertical strip of light
can illuminate the bookcase next to her pillow
when she really wants the lion tucking his paws under his mane
and guarding the foot of her bed to know
he can exit by pushing his nose on the door.
Now I am listening to a white-crested laughing thrush
chortling up by the aviary's skylights
and a blue parrot muttering at the blank clouds:
"I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,"
which could be a climax if there was a story
followed by a rainy walk to the car,
the powder-gray bats I've never seen here before
dipping from oak to oak as randomly as meteors.

Copyright © 2013 Tyler Mills All rights reserved
from Tongue Lyre
Southern Illinois University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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