I wish I had traveled with Audubonfrom New Orleans to Galveston Island
John, in your Ornithological Biographyyou called me Dear Reader.How did you know I would be here,listening for you?
Remember the pair of boat-tailedgrackles you painted in New Orleans,posed in a Live Oak tree-the male’s violet sheen
cooled by matte greenleaves and spidery moss?They are the two mostvirginal feral grackles
I’ll ever see. Gracklesare city whore birds now.They poop on auto glassand mouth off at motorists
as we share the morningcommute from our messyroosts. But we’re getting along.
Could you see this coming in 1821 when you sketched those grackles, just a year after baby Rose died in Lucy’s lap?
Mono and Polysyllables
In Burma, Mak Ah Mar Gyi rode her old Brit bike to buy fresh shrimp, pod beans, and ghee. She took lunch pails to her kids in the school yard and fussed at them in her soft voice as she urged them to eat. (They loved to eat what she cooked.) She was the nurse at Win’s clinic. She weighed small ones, gave shots, and when it was time, marched and screamed in the streets.
Ah Mar Gyi moved to the syncopated syllabled city of Schenectady. At Ellis Hospital no one could pronounce Ah Mar Gyi. When the amplified voice called over the PA system for Nurse Margery to come to the Emergency Room immediately she had to learn who that might be.
Louisa, time to wake up. Come hear the overture for today?s performance. Underwear is on the chair, my breakfast diva. Insist on your proper billing. To begin, step out lightly as the soubrette?Despina or Susanna. Slowly, through nights, you will darken to mezzo. And remember my love for you, whatever wig you slip on.
Leslie Morris did anthropological research in Indonesia on a Fulbright and has also lived in Burma. She now lives in Austin, with her husband and two daughters. She studies poetry with Hoa Nguyen.
—Naomi Shihab Nye