Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From the Vqr Vault: Ornithology

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From the Vqr Vault: Ornithology

Article excerpt

The day is cool and grey.

The solemn cuckoo haunts the damp limbs

And recesses of the sour woods next door;

Her tone sucks summer from the air.

I try to turn away the sound

Which melts into the dissonance of this later yard;

Costlier colors ripen into newer chords,

Raw without memory. Along the woods edge ground

The scratch and hop of the rufus towhee,

Cognac brown, satin white and black.

Silvery rings the veery

High above shrill voices arguing their games.

The oriole mocks at us, his golden apple breast

Crowning the tree where he eats.

Our patch of sky shreds in gashes orange, scarlet, blue-

Flicker, tanager, bluejay. I slowly learn

The bold mixed consummation of the August air.

Rosamond Field, "Learning the Songs of Birds," Fall 1963

I am only fairly sure of their being in fact purple finches, so I get down Peterson's Field Guide and read his description: "Male: About size of House Sparrow, rosy-red, brightest on head and rump." That checks quite well, but his next remark-"a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice"- is decisive: it fits. I look out the window again, and now I know that I am seeing purple finches.

Howard Nemerov, "On Metaphor," Fall 1969

Thoughts that lead nowhere are more tiring than those that go somewhere. This past winter I was so run-down from thinking that I quit sitting on the porch until my neighbor Harold suggested putting up a bird feeder. …

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