Everything came sooner this year—
‘February Gold’ daffodils frilling
the neighbor’s yard, marching in patches,
like bonneted Dutch dolls patterning the quilts
hand-stitched by my grandmother in the halo
of a Depression glass kerosene lamp;
the ground thaw of the full worm supermoon,
with the mounding of earthworm droppings
crushed under my boot weeks before
the tropical rush of stopover warblers;
March passing, blurred with rain and dark clumps
of turkey vultures roosting in a stand
of loblolly pines—I sheltered in place,
exceeding social distancing by a backyard length,
in full retreat to an afternoon of porch sitting—
weary of text bursts and COVID-19 tweetstorms.
Hissing, I heard hissing, and my neighbor, fenced in,
called that the birds would not snatch the pacing cat.
I took up my father’s cracked binoculars,
trying to zero in, for the first time, on why
he hovered over field guides to American birds;
his lifelong dream was to find a birdfeeder
that defied squirrels—he never did.
The vultures’ red, shrunken heads wrinkled,
scrubbed bald, like the scalps of ancient monks;
the night before, their hooked beaks, like polished bone,
had ripped into a possum rotting by the garbage.
Free of flesh, they flapped, shaking off the damp,
and rose, thermal riding, with the two-tone underside
of their wings spread in shallow V’s—carrion-feaster comfort
wing-warping on a cleansing breeze.
My thanks to all the readers and Facebook friends who have stuck with me during my return to poetry. Your support motivated me to enter the 2020 writing competition sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club (a great community of creatives). “2020 Birdwatch” placed as a runner-up for the Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry, with subsequent publication in The Blue Mountain Review. Art in any form is therapy, especially during this time, and it propels us to embrace the beauty of this world.