Author's Note: This poem is a love letter to one of the main-stays of my life. It was first published in One Art, and is collected in my most recent book, Threnody, Moon Tide Press, 2022.
To identify the bird singing from the powerlines, I pull Birds of America from its spot atop the bookshelf. Remember, friend, when you gave this book to me? Before your move to Texas? Or, was it after the returning to California? Your grandmother’s book you said, who also loved to name the birds. How I grieved when you moved half-way across the country with your family, for your husband’s better job. I boarded the plane with the baby, barely three-months old, while you wrangled the other children up the ramp. It was December. Remember how we cried? The new year began and with it, grief began in earnest. Jobs soured. Friends divorced. In May, my father died. When school was out, to staunch my tears, Larry loaded our boys into the car (which car? I don’t remember) and we crossed the desert states. Craters, canyons, caverns, kitsch motels, the kids counting dead critters on the highway all the way to Texas. Hellish hot, the Texas summer, but Laurie, you and I were glad to sit in misery together. We passed the baby back and forth, refilled our icy drinks. The children, keeping cool, wielded water guns and hoses. The husbands talked sports, flipped burgers on the grill. It was June. Did we celebrate our birthdays, one day apart, together? I don’t remember the birds in Texas, but mosquitos and chiggers ruled the grass. Cicadas swarmed the backyard trees, a visitation we’d not expected with its symphony of sizzle and buzz as if a world were ending or beginning. We could not have guessed which guests would call upon us next. Some callers it’s best not to expect.
©2022 Donna Hilbert
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL