Ode on a Mockingbird

By Rosser, J. Allyn | Michigan Quarterly Review, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Ode on a Mockingbird


Rosser, J. Allyn, Michigan Quarterly Review


Lithe shadow, organic jukebox, sly note-taker,

twirling your vocal cords about

like the rainbowy ribbons of a Maypole,

what do you love? do you love? do you love?

I've let the birdfeeder level drop down,

but you stay on, enraptured, giddy.

Look: I'm not the type to call a poem song

or waste ink on what a bird might "think."

But this one! When he pauses, tips his

fragile, drab tail at the sky, pauses,

then lets fly his fly his fly his-hey!

He has reasons. He's selective,

doesn't juxtapose the same way

each time around. He seems to swivel

with the wind from song to song

(though the weathercock's is one

he can't be bothered with),

each a ringer for the source.

You can almost hear other birds tsking:

That show-off, faker, no-count,

cheap bastard of a bird, just who

does he whooduzee whooduzee think he is?

It's mating season, of course.

He'll be quiet, deathly so,

once summer settles in and the point,

the whole poi-poi-point eludes him.

But for now, like some manic Eliot

on uppers he keeps on, he do

the Police sometimes all night, occasionally

with a bit of nesting material wedged

jauntily in the crook of his beak

like a young tough waggling his Marlboro,

look Ma no mouth,

he warbles, tweets, buzzes, trickles, trills.

He does it so well that every single spring

I'm fooled, I think this one

is different, he'll keep it up all year,

this one does it for sheer love of singing,

loves the zillion singwingednesses of the world

and wants it all to issue from his breast alone,

lightly like a spring bubbling up from the dust,

loves my alarm clock and the rufous-sided towhee

with equal ferocity, this one the true,

true lover, this one the Emil-Emil-Emily

Dickinson of mockingbirds, twirling

ribbons around neat packets of song,

doesn't care if we're listening, me or the ex,

or a current or future mate or master,

the last mockingbird on the block, doesn't give

a twat-twit-twat-what? …

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