The BirdsHeather Derr-Smith
A bird a-lit on the open windowsill with a heart like a cherry pit.
At first its little name is unknown. The girl on the bed doesn't bother to look it up.
She's too bored with her life. She lies on the bed naked, the color of a GE soft white lightbulb.
She hears the bird singing to her, and yes, it's as if he knows her heart! But the melody
Confuses her. It goes in one direction and then in another. It's distracting to her anxiety
And her painful longing for Uncle Charlie who will come any moment now on coincidence from
New York City. He's very charming.
Every time the film is replayed she goes right back to her longing.
The Blue Danube plays at the piano. She makes maple cake for him. She has to concentrate
On the directions and get it just right.
A bird flies on the set like a match-stroke
It looks like the reflection of aluminum in the California sun.
Fast-forward on the old VCR and her heart breaks, popped between his two fingers. She sings, "He has taken the East from me! He has taken the West!"
She can't go to New York! She can't go to L.A.!
Later, in a different film, she recognizes herself dead in the shower; the camera zoomed in on her
orbital ring like a red bulls-eye. An expert points out the anal themes. She's shocked.
She pulls up her black hood like the Cyprus warbler and flies off.
Outside the movie set is a man who's traveled a very long distance.
He grew up a little boy in Ramallah. You know that place from the New York Times.
He invites anyone he meets for supper at midnight. His walls are papered with Kashmiri garden scenes like Paradise and you know from Taschen art books that that is not a good sign.
But you would be mistaken with your stereotypes. He makes Mulukhiyya.
His mother shares her Rock Dove recipe. Yes, he knows all about birds, of course,
He became a man with a chest full of Hoopoes, their legs strung along a string.
He went down to the photographers shop with blood still stained on his shirt.
This was when words began to be literal. There were no more accidents.
He came to L.A. to make movies like Hitchcock! Testify that God is One.
There is no God but God.
He misses most the Palestinian sunbird, its grove of acacias. He loves his wife.
He never lays a hand on her.
The birds come from the East; they come from the West!
They bring their little knives to cut open the thighs of difficult plants.
They swing on diminutive threads, paper bones,
Their copulation is the quickened pulse of God when he returns to his country.
The girl on her bed is still waiting for Uncle Charlie.
She notices for the very first time all the tiny nests in the parking lots of Target and Walmart.
Uncle Charlie tells her they are ruby-throated. He knows so many things!
Once in the zoo she saw a dove with a mark like a bloody wound on its chest. She was upset.
He pointed his index finger at it like a gun. Why, she'd seen that gesture on TV!
There will be fireworks tonight and the Dancing Waters, those fountains with colored lights and orchestral strings.
She never expected anything bad to ever happen. Ramallah's wife found the movie exasperating.
The knuckles of her own father's hands were broken, every one, because he was suspected
Of being a collaborator. She expected the worst, always.
Why couldn't the girl in Santa Rosa see that?
Even the stallion, literally, gets lovesick
fly into a date tree and drop scissors down its throat.
Don't ever let anyone know which way you are going.
You'll become a traitor, just by knowing. Women find things out. Knowledge is dangerous.
Love is unexpected. When it turns out not to be real, it's a bad blow.
She thought, that girl from Santa Rosa needs some teaching. I'll tell her stories,
Seal up her eyes with tiny sewing threads, like the falcon in training.
She told her husband, Uncle Charlie is a lie from beginning to end, like all women's tales.
He made her watch several more, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, Dressed to Kill,
And the BBC special, The Charmer.
The girl said, When I cry, the birds cry. Which girl is it?
She showed her dusty blue under parts. Her fulvous yellow body.
In the end when Uncle Charlie was found out, he opened his mouth to protest.
She dropped her scissors in.
Heather Derr-Smith has two books of poetry, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005) and The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008). Her poems have also appeared in Fence, Margie, TriQuarterly, and Pleiades. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teaches writing and creative writing in Iowa. She is currently the visiting writer at Iowa State University.
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