From Brown Thrashers By Hugh Behm-Steinberg (pt 2 of 2)


Ruby-Crowned Kinglets

Now the lord has restrained me, and I’m the smallest bird, but I’m not afraid of my body because I don’t need my body.

Beneath this building, beneath every street there’s a desert. The dust will rise up and cover us as though we’d never existed.

Every part is a piece, and your hand hovers over it: it takes so long for this to happen you can’t see it happening.

Walk before me, and you will be perfect, a passerine flickering its wings.

And I will put laughter in the middle of your name, and all your words will be nouns.
Your fear will not be in front of you, and the water when it comes.

It comes in different parts of the river – every night a different part. After I am old I shall have pleasure,

I shall dine upon eggs and hover beneath leaves and branches, down the side of a cliff to the desert below.

Then I found out that you were dumping water every night – I was drowned.
But nothing is too hard that time won’t soften, which is a promise so you decided to save it.

And the kingdom of things, it’s so meaningful. As a frame is on fire and afraid of your son.
As a frame is made of water, which is fearless and will not hold anything you want.

Out of the water a pair of eyeglasses, his finger poking through where one lens is shattered.
They are heavily bifocal and reflect the sun. Ruby-crowned kinglets shall be of her.

I will be one hundred years old when I have a son, and my wife will be ninety: I will only spend my winter with him, but he will love us.

I will spend my last ice coins to buy him clothes. We’ll live in the desert, near Joshua Tree.

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Double-Crowned Cormorants

When I get older I’ll grow darker. I’ll be calming, I’ll be branched. I’ll sun myself.
I’ll dry out, I’ll preen. If you drink drink some more I say, you’re in the water anyway.

Go deeper into the water. Swim low in the water, with just your neck and head visible, and dive through
it. Until the ice-lid has closed over us, don’t return till the cover is lifted up in the spring.

The world is legal, but its cops cannot be seen. The world is illegal, what side are you on? There’s a law around you. Ease my worried mind. Thriving now that DDT’s been banned.

Starting to stop as on a small boat you pull the oars the wrong way you spin make a whirlpool with your webbed feet. A lung as you dive further under. A loving kindness as you dry out in the sun.

Not resentful, happy. I’ll know what it’s like, I’ll lie there like your son.
It will matter more when you let go. So don’t let go.

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Anna’s Hummingbirds

Visit our yard and I feel blessed. Investigating tangles don’t you want to?
I’m tangled too there’s a lot to check out. One buzzes my head, territorially.

Not ownership but belonging to. Knot the best into your weeks the garden asparagus towering, the artichokes erupting and buzzed by a hummingbird.

One at a time. Might also be looking for earwigs, I bet they eat those too.

I bet they see colors we can’t. I bet they used to have a compass in their heads but they said there are enough circles in the world. We are kin that shininess unmakes certain parts of you we really like that.

You hover over my snoring head you taste my ear I dream I’m spilling pollen everywhere; there’s so much gold coming out of me it’s embarrassing. Don’t be embarrassed, you say, it’s a spiritual process you’re undergoing.

A frozen shoulder in your shirt, I lift the shirt off you; we’re in bed in the afternoon just talking, putting the after in, and they’re working working working. There’s so much bloomland the world was made for sex the hummingbird says

and making things squeek.

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Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press, forthcoming December 2012). His poems can be found in such places as Crowd, VeRT, Volt, Cue, Slope, Aught, Fence, dirt, Ditch, Nap, Forge, Swerve and Zeek, as well as few places with more than one syllable. He teaches writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.