Today's poem is by L.R. Berger



Crows skim over a page of snow
behind the house
as if one sentence were enough.

One sentence
can claim
everything counts.

Shingles tier on the barn
mimicking rows of wing feathers

stained the color of that Burgundy
he passed with a late night kiss
from his mouth filling mine.


Have I already said their daily

were compelling
as their inevitable disappearances?

Their day-to-day work
exposing us

to weightlessness?

Our bodies are the splintered stakes
we're tied to.

Everything counts.

Nailed over the bed
of my earliest childhood friend,

the cross was a sparrow
with stiff wings
the first time I saw it.


It was late April and the storefront
door, wide open,

a starling trapped inside one room
full of handmade dollhouses
and miniatures.

It flew like that store was on fire,

from roof to roof, tiny kitchen to parlor,
toppling a cradle,

against a pane of glass—

the owner shrieking
as I walked in
at her only customer.

Remembering how,
I threw my green sweater
over it, carried that heartbeat

wrapped in my hands
across the threshold

where it did what I counted on,
flew off into a sycamore without us.


At Long Lake the heron was camouflaged
right there before our eyes.

Then, smack of wings, shot out,
our canoe barely rocking
that acre

of pickerelweed
and waterlilies.

We flie without wings in our dreams,

break into morning
through the bulrushes of sleep
where we find what we'll count on.


I woke to a beady-eyed titmouse
drumming at a seed between its feet,

to one day unfettered
by the small or greater sorrows
always here to choose from.

I woke to the nose-dive
dips of chickadees,

to a choire of birds,
unaccountably happy.


Have I counted on them
for companionship? Yes.

And when there weren't birds
I turned to wind.

Wind, too, can turn air

from vacant space
into some live element.


Remember how gestureless
we felt on the banks of the Deleware?
No fluttering anywhere.

It was a day we couldn't account for,
the air and river breathless—

even the ducks became stones on stones,
so motionless we nearly believed in it.


Our world's total avian population
was last reckoned at about 100 billion—
give or take some hundreds of millions.

Do you wonder what makes us count?

How many have passed overhead
casting their passing shadows over you?

9. At the crest of the hill
before the orchard,

a weathervane bent
by countless storms

back almost off its perch—

copper rooster and arrow
aimed now
accidentally skyward.


How I woke with the word
ceaseless in my mouth.

Ceaseless, ceaseless,

like a bird dealt one phrase
among all others for a lifetime.
Then, counting on it.

Copyright © 2004 L.R. Berger All rights reserved
from The Unexpected Aviary
Deerbrook Editions
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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