Today's poem is by Joseph Harrison

A Different Bird

      Out for a walk
In the woods back of what was a farm
Early one winter morning, surprisingly warm,
    No wind, a sky like chalk,

      I saw, not heard,
On a branch jutting over the trail,
With a scarlet throat, thrown back, and blue-green tail,
    What seemed a different bird.

      Without a noise,
Scarcely breathing, for minutes I stood
Deep in that silent, timeless world of wood
    Hoping to hear his voice,

      Thinking so strange
A songbird must by nature sing
An ecstatic carol, unlike anything
    I'd heard for pitch and range,

      But, still, no sound.
When I approached, he didn't flinch,
He stared (a warbler? an exotic finch?)
    And right up close I found

      It wasn't a bird
At all, only a man-made thing
Someone had whittled and painted, beak and wing,
    And, though it seems absurd,

      Decided to stick
Deep in the woods, for someone like me
To happen upon some day, and see, then see,
    And laugh at his little trick,

      And feel a bit lost,
As if the whole walk were a dream
Where things are always never what they seem
    In winter woods without frost.

      Then, on my word,
(It's unbelievable, I know
And all this happened, or didn't, years ago),
    Turning to leave, I heard,

      Not loud or long,
But audible through the forest air
Coming—from outside? inside?—from somewhere,
    Playing, a different song.

Copyright © 2004 Joseph Harrison All rights reserved
from Center
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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