Mawwage

By Catherine Stearns

Featured art Rising Dove, 1934 by Harold Edgerton

Mawwage is what bwings us together.
—The Princess Bride

At five, a clamorous bird
proposed outside our window: 
Will-ya will-ya will-ya, then? 
when a high-pitched vireo
like a shotgun bride
interposed fuck-you fuck-you 
before his liquid goddess
could reply, with a flirty little 
who-me who-me? followed by
something like my mother’s 
tch-tch-tch-ing at my father’s
stories she’d heard a million
times before, nattering
away as if strapped on
currents of confused desire,
but finally speeding up
to an ascendant trill—I do
I do, I do / aspire to—

broken off by our alarm clock’s
insistent beep. Aspire to . . . ?
Aspire to . . . ? Happiness?
Transcendence? Sleep?
I turned it off to hear
not the long-married coo
of doves I often do
upon waking, but the shameless
heart of a bird
quivering in song
that knows itself alone

except for you, afloat
among the highest shelves
of dark and light, singing
and singing the changes through.


Catherine Stearns is the author of one previous collection of poetry, The Transparency of Skin (New Rivers Press) and has a chapbook forthcoming from Slate Roof Press. Her poems have appeared recently in Southwest ReviewYale Review, and North American Review. She is currently writer-in-residence at The Roxbury Latin School in Boston.

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