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The Songs We Know Not to Talk Over

After a funeral, something wrestles from the wind,

Flutters haphazardly close to your aching chest.

Most likely it will fall to the cracked sidewalk.

Stop walking. Consider it. You won’t understand

What you are looking at, this sort of green would-be

Katydid with dragonfly wings & limbs like a praying

Mantis. It’s incapable of anything

But beginning. It won’t sense your grief

For someone it has been. Walk away first.

You won’t see it again. Because now it’s a bird.

Not very scientific, but I have seen this. Not the transformation,

But how often have I asked the sky

What comes after death & then two birds

Pass over my head. I couldn’t tell you why

I awaken at times to a pecking

At my eyes. I don’t know why some birds return

To haunt us. I have felt thin, small talons

Dig into my wrist. We tangle in the darkness,

Porous as loess. No trail of marigolds & copal incense.

No falconers in the boot hills. Where we go, I feel still

But never remember. In the morning a sparrow steals

A half-eaten donut from a pack of feral cats,

& I promise to spare the life of all that is winged.

I watch where I step & still a wasp stings.

I’m sorry. The only promises I’ve kept are those

Scientifically proven. I have no ion-infrared

Evidence, no delicate microphones to catch

When I check the closets & drains

During a thunderstorm, when I’ve said,

Sitting at a deathbed, it’s gonna be okay.

I’ve told them not to pull the plug

Even if my body says when

Bury me standing, bury me

Three times. No one really drops dead from seeing

Your gaunt, flitting shape in the mirror.

Not mirror but grace. Forgive me for covering

My eyes, for cowering under the blanket, for swatting

At you when I passed a flower garden,

When I shut my windows & chased you

From park benches & fruit trees. I didn’t know

There are people I’m not willing to ever let go,

& I won’t. I haven’t.

from If This Is the Age We End DiscoveryFind more by Rosebud Ben-Oni at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rosebud Ben-Oni
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Poems Rosebud Ben-Oni

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.