[from Pamela Alexander's Commonwealth of Wings: An Ornithological Biography Based on the Life of John James Audubon, Wesleyan, 1991]
At Coueron. My First Gun
Mama & I
& Rosa, we hope never to meet
another war. Here
the land is flat & trim, sheep
swerve together, hedges & fences
keep order. I explore
margins & flawed places
while Rosa's piano turns
a pretty flurry. I take chocolate
in waxy papers & a basket
to bring back nests & lichens, more strange
than my lessons. The daily murders of the city are far, fewer,
then stop, & I forget them.
apart, my sister
& I, she domestic, says
my blown eggs & stuffed birds
stink. I close the door.
I shoot well, corks I toss
come down in showers, my fingers gleam
with powder. The gun kicks my shoulder,
its shout & smell clear me.
The bird falls,
always. I watch its color & shine & flare
for weeks before I fire, but my sketch preserves
only its deadness. I burn
my pencil's generation of cripples
on my birthday.
Sometimes I sleep
near my Originals, on leaf litter
beneath the trees they close their eyes in,
sometimes I lie awake in the quiet house
& listen to the nightwatch
kept by the river, old water clock,
& by whickering horses standing
to their sleep.
Commonwealth of Wings: An Ornithological Biography Based on the Life of John James Audubon (Wesleyan poetry)