His First Encounter


deep in a reverie of red birds a cardinal is perched

in the pear tree behind the house his dull brown mate swoons

and nestles beside him they catch eyes I involuntarily


shudder flutter my eyes open and there

she is the gray of her her almost breath

on the pillows and blows long burnt-toast other


hair away from me but then another muted bird flies

just past them disappears into green leaves to get a better

view he turns it is her nose or face so exact


and beak-like an intensity over me she seems

almost familiar like a some moment hovering

the first female dampened hops to the next branch over

she tilts her head at him on a subway where a rust-

lipped woman and I catch eyes and we both know nothing

can be but for that second and the moment’s forgotten the scarlet


male flies to the garage and stares across the yard

at her he doesn’t fly toward the other female until this apparition

in dark she has no body and yet she’s all there her face those sharp


angles the blade of her jaw the point of her nose

they smudge like an eraser I quiver again the wife bird sits still

he jumps to the dirt below and digs his beak into the ground she

primps her feathers all bird without wings all wings

without substance she could be every woman and not

a woman at all her he skips where I can’t see but she still sits far away


gray goes on there is no beginning of her

and no end a flash of red in the air he’s left she turns her back to him,


still sitting on the branch but I marvel when she comes

and thaw in the exact moment she leaves

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