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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 2, June 2015


Bill Gottlieb
Cobb, California, USA

Starlings and Blackbirds

Behind the hospice around one hundred starlings bead the sun into strands of eager pleasures, feed and bathe after dense rain ended dry days, spring and plunge, a delighted December flock of drought’s survivors—I’m a survivor, they say inside the hospice; yes, I try to capture happiness in a counting hand, yes, I hold joy like a bird, her feathers fresh for the currents, her small blood warmed by a palm, the heart line long.

Her, you, my wife—you’ve been the bird here, flying for a year without stopping, flying away by my side, wings skywriting the story of your departure. Later in the day I walk to the vernal lake where months ago out of nowhere a rainbow appeared, nowhere, where you are. With water’s return the red-winged blackbirds trill in the way you loved them to, announcing their strength, their beauty and their secrets, their certain grip in the dusk around a swaying reed, red like a badge of being, black overt as love. I listen with all my life—attentive to every tone, eyes closed, to the one song, over and over—when a flutter bursts a brown flock out of the unseen surface, is ridden into the darkening distant air. Who’s there? Who’s there? my silence responds. You, you loved fluttering—The wings, the beat, your breathing whispers, whispers from the heart that flew to the light, the way you went, the way you wanted to go.

through the low gate
into widening starlight
we leave



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