Perihelion: An Online Journal of Poetry and Mayhem
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Jan Owen


Side-on, he’s inscape’s outline,
front-on, a slit in the wind
which now plays up the yellow down
under his wings.
His tail shucks off late rain, he’s trembling
a little, so seems more human,
or you’re more bird.

The ugly-noble beak lifts, hyperbolic –
Akhenaten’s quizzical look –
swizzles the just-spring air a moment then
left, right, left like a blindman’s stick
dibs down for grubs.

Long ago now
he was glyphed to poetry, tasked to a god
on Luxor stone as grey-flecked as his back;
those crisp-edged pools of granite shadow
drink in time.

Still between two worlds the ibis goes,
scribing his way on muddy grass and worms,
kneading the earth with slow grace steps,
hunched as an immigrant
under his luggage of light.
Each step dips his head as to
the Torah or Koran.

Remember these birds
measuring the perimeters of camps;
inside and out,
stick-thin legs in hungry air
with flight a pallid absence.

But this is luckier terrain:
a strip of park on Elizabeth Street,
mild traffic fumes, thin sun, lunch hour.
Two other park-benchers like me
are watching each softly closing claw
lift from a Chopin étude,
the music of silence posing as bird,
then spread out and down,
millennial with resignation.

His meal’s a pilgrimage to here and now –
I am everything that is the case.
The distance he gathers in,
stern and gentle as mist, is
slowly changing its mind.