Bird

By Danusha Laméris

Featured Art: Young Woman on a Balcony Looking at Parakeets by Henri Matisse

We were sitting on the couch in the dark
talking about first pets, when I told him how,
as a girl, I kept a blue and white parakeet I let
y around the house and, sometimes, outside,
where he’d land on the branches of pine
and eucalyptus, balancing between seedpods
and spines. Only, while I was telling it,
my companion began to stroke, very lightly,
the indent of my palm, the way you do when you’re
sitting in the dark with someone you’ve never kissed
but have thought about kissing. And I told him
how my bird would sit on a high branch and sing,
loudly, at the wonder of it—the whole, green world—

while he traced the inside of my arm with his fingers,
opening another world of greenery and vines,
twisting toward the sun. I loved that bird for his singing,
and also for the way his small body, lifted skyward,
made my life larger. And then it was lip-to-lip,
a bramble, and it was hard to say who was who—
thumb to cheek to chest. The whole ravening.
When I told him I did not clip my bird’s wings,
I was talking about hunger. When he pressed me
hard against the back of the couch, named a litany
of things he’d do to me, I wanted them all.
I, too, have loved to live in a body. To feel the way
it lifts up the octaves of sky, cells spiraling
through smoke and mist, cumulus and stratus,
into that wild blue. And though I knew
there was always a hawk somewhere in the shadows
ready to snatch his heart in its claws, still,
I couldn’t help letting that parakeet free.


Danusha Laméris is the author of The Moons of August (Autumn House, 2014), and Bonfire Opera, (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 2020). Some of her poems have been published in The Best American Poetry, The New York Times, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. The recipient of the 2020 Lucille Clifton Legacy Award, she teaches poetry independently, and was the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County, California.

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