Horseflies & worse, skin-nagging pinpoints
of itch & fire, salt-dust, suntan-oil-
melt in our eyes—we’re here for sanctuary,
for the birds of Bodie Island, rare finds.
We’ve seen before the dark specks of hawks—
Red-shouldered or -tailed—our father spots them,
points, one hand steers, one flies in gesture,
our mother watches the road for him, white-knuckled.
Always, he sees them first, binoculars up,
fixes the focus, confirms—it’s about
waiting & knowing—a blur forms sharp
against the sky. In dull reeds, a snaky neck,
orange sliver of bill. It’s about wishing,
the pure, rapt attention of longing.
Bleached & broken cockles & clams crunch
underfoot, ghost crabs scatter. He’s hunting,
striding ahead. We trot to stay with him.
So much shadowed from sight, so much to find,
if we can. If there are rivers or fields,
if trees, dunes, water, salt or fresh, we are
lensed & ready: a flash of white, perhaps
a wary eye turned bold & then away.
It’s intent & doggedness, the creed that
something’s there— there! a Roseate Spoonbill!—
but each find rests on more that hides unseen.
soldiers on, leaves us behind, is growing
smaller, is a dark speck in our lenses—
recognizable the family plumage,
the calls we’ve learned to ape. We’ll scour the field
ahead, believe legend to be true,
strive to find the vanished creatures
—Passenger Pigeon, Ivory-Bill—
we’ve been told are just ahead of us now,
perhaps hoping we will follow, roosting
like phantom pain in the memory of trees.
Jennifer Brown lives with her partner and a funny-looking dog in NC but is itching for the day when they hit the open road and land in Vermont, Alaska, and many points between. She has taught creative writing and literature in high schools, colleges, summer programs, and festivals and has held residencies at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in Copper Nickel and Orizon Anthology, and is forthcoming in L.A. Review, Cimarron Review, and Cinncinnati Review. Her first poetry collection, Natural Violence, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.