Pre-Murmuration

I wrote once about the flutter of the birds.

The uncanny itching at the back of my neck
when I see them amassed on the power lines
or spread out like fallen leaves on the pavement

just before they go.

I wonder when they leap in unison
silent but for the flap of freedom

whether they were spooked
sentient of what’s to come
and jumping ship before
the pulling of our world apart

or merciful
easing their flock into flux
their combined weight lifting the world

at once

and showing the safety in brethren.

It Happens Again

The same birdcall, half past seven
This time, fog curls around my ankles like a chilled cat
as I step onto the pavement to greet the sound.
The cable-knit of my sleeves wrap me in my own embrace
my shins aching still with sleep

and it happens again.

The same balloon in the sky, just after dawn,
the air pink and yawning, the heat unpresent.
The speck inside the balloon opens and closes the mouth of the envelope
making muted banshee sounds of hot air.
The speck of thrush flies below the basket
optical illusion
thrush supporting a miniature hot air balloon

and it happens again.

The swing creaks under my weight,
groaning like a day laborer with aching shins,
my coffee dribbles over the lip of my cup
my flicking tongue missing a drop that singes my skin
and bleeds into my knee, wrapped underneath.
I’m ready to open a new book
inhale the birdsong, invoke the balloonist to wave at me

and it happens again.

You are the home I slept in when ill,
the thrush call coming through your open window
before you embraced me in your sweater to keep out the chill.

You are the earlybird, waking to show me the magical specks in the sky
the recreational hoppers who sail to Oz every morning
and exclaim how you have always wanted to fly.

You are my swing companion, always spilling your coffee on your shirt
and telling me corny jokes as the day cracks its knuckles
and throws its beauty onto your face.

I open my book and inhale the wind,

and you happen again.

The Flutter of Birds

I don’t recall what led up to the conversation
But I remember where we were going.

You, bound up in your coat and cap,
your hair still black and longer than it is now.

Me, rigid and hard as the cold air
Unmelting, like the ice on the street.
We crunched on the snow-soaked ground

and made way for the tram.

Pressed against metal and the lurching hooks,
each person bound and spewing breaths of hot air
I watch as the puffs in front of me exchange torrid glances
while the puffs behind won’t make eye contact

Not unlike how I won’t look at you.

I don’t recall when you started speaking,but I remember foreign vowel sounds.
Consonants, a blur of everyday conversation
or blatant secret-sharing
or shaming all around me.

As you practiced your English syllables with me
your stutter from nerves
your formation of the ‘eh’ vowel a tad too pronounced
each sentence ending with a question mark.

You said it, the one line where I could find a response.

“If I ever see you again.”

How you must have twittered back and forth
tripping over your thoughts like too many shoes in the entryway
or stuffing them back in the salad bowl
or folding them into napkin rings and pressing them together
with your lips
those lips of iron fire that could seal me like a letter

or shred me like a document.

I let you sit with that statement,
and in that moment of staring back at you, stopped at a red light inside a sauna of puffed air,
I saw the flutter of the birds.
Beyond your left shoulder, against the monochrome sky
Each black speck of fowl amassed on the sidewalk
sprang into flight at once
as if there were a loud gong sounding for dinner

that only they could hear.

Had I not been looking back at you, I would not have seen
the uniform release of their inky presence into the air
to blot out the tired sky
or dirty the crystalline bleakness of this winter tale.

Had I not been looking back at you, I would not have felt the peace
that comes with the surety of birds.
The wonder of such routine significance
of flight.

As sure as the surprise on your face
The bubble eyes
and matching mouth

“I will return to you,” I said
“But I am done here.”