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Illustration by Stacy Reece

Why Birds?

Virginia poet and novelist Jim Minick brings us a beautiful poem about a love for birds — and about love itself.

Their songs, their brilliance,
their intricate nests and abundant curiosities.

Their dawn chorus calling
us to feel breath cross chords
and know the need to wake
the sun with song.

How they make me remember—
the sound of the gone ivory-billed
I learned from listening to LPs
with my grandfather;

or my first bluebird, its soft song
leading me to a hollow post
filled with four blue eggs—
something so startling and secret;

or the pileated that flew across
a country road at eye-level,
and we not yet married
and you yanking the wheel
back across the yellow line
as we crested a hill.

You knew then I was mad
with love for you and for birds
and you still said yes, and now,
over thirty years later, we’re still
in love and even this evening
you pointed to the pileated
that cackled and flapped by our window.

Birds fly me away
from me, but also back—
the titmouse whistling
his simple call, two clear notes
echoing through the woods,
answering my poor reply,
saying hello,
flying me to you.

Jim Minick is the author of five books, the most recent, “Fire Is Your Water,” a novel. “The Blueberry Years,” his memoir, won the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson chose Minick’s poem “I Dream a Bean” Claudia Emerson for permanent display at the Tysons Corner Metrorail Station outside Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Tampa Review, Shenandoah, Orion, Oxford American and The Sun. The University of Nebraska Press will publish his newest book, “Without Warning: The Tornado of Udall, Kansas,” in 2023.

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