Cedar Waxwing, Late November

By John Hazard

Featured art: Flying magpies by Watanabe Seitei

In the crook of a bare maple branch
a lone cedar waxwing sits. I thought
they went south, but I guess not all, not yet.

There are big blue holes in the clouds today
and only a moderate chill, a day to be sociable—
and waxwings tend toward groups.

But there he sits, no berry calling him,
nor women, nor daring flights among thickets.
His high-pitched note is mute.
The breast of the cedar waxwing looks softer
than anything I’ve seen. No one’s discerned
a single feather etched in the fuzz

of his tan-gold-gray. That black mask
is a clown’s toy, more dandy than bandit.
Small orange beads dangle on his wingtips,

and look how the buff-gray tail concludes
in black and lemony stripes. But what good
is all that art on the eve of winter, this bird left

with his choice to stay put, and only me
to impress? I’ve heard that waxwings in courtship
pass fruit and bugs back and forth. They dance

and finish with a gentle touching of beaks.
Maybe my lone bird is lookout for his tribe,
or decoy—their offering to any hawk he can’t deceive.

December’s shouldering in, and here we are,
me wondering, him staring. His feathers fluff
in a bit of wind. Some twigs fall. We see each other.


A native of southeastern Ohio, John Hazard now lives in Birmingham, Michigan. He has taught at the University of Memphis and, more recently, at the Cranbrook Schools and Oakland University in suburban Detroit. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net and has appeared widely in magazines, including Arts & Letters, Ploughshares, Poetry, Shenandoah, Slate, Gettysburg Review, and Terrain.org. His 2015 book of poetry is Naming a Stranger (Aldrich Press), and his current manuscript, Interrupting the Sky, needs a publisher.

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