Kathryn Nuernberger

Birds of Ohio

Birds of Ohio include the bird that collects tin
for scrap          and the orange bird that sings like
a stake-driver pumping underwater.    There is the bird
who nests the cliff-face of a culvert and trestle bridge.
There is the one who toe-holds a sunflower
seed and bills it like a jackhammer      and the bird
that is actually the tiniest copse of trees left
on Starve Island          Also, the coal ash chickadee,
little patron saint atop a slate roof in each little city
of the black diamond, singing 1000 times a day or more
if I sees you, I’ll seize you and I’ll squeeze you till you squirt
It’s the bird you’ve never seen.                       The one
afraid to cross the shotgunner’s lake. The bird that is a relic
of the never-come-again-good-old-prairie-days.
The char birds that are spontaneously spit forth
from the fireweed        as the white tundra swan runs the river
to beat  loose the current before the falls.       Some
that burrow in the gob and there lay their eggs like lost
buckeyes,         dig it up to see and hatches in your hand
a beak-rusty yolk.        There are birds that cannot land and
cannot perch,   as there are ones who trip over the tiniest
fiddles of their feet.     And then the birds who don’t know
north from south, so they stay here and freeze into glass
on the window sill       and their song is the woman-
scream of the panther you may have heard no longer
ranges here, but she is here      with the bird that plucks
a wasp from the air, then beats it against a brick
until dead.       Here there are the birds so smitten
with berries that Audubon saw 100 shot in a single day
from a single cherry tree          and more still came,
flocking crest   and wave over the dusk in rhythm
with the pitch-squeak backyard rigs pumping their plots
up and down the banks of our collapsed-mine acid creek
which is orange as a bird and silver as a nest.

Kathryn Nuernberger is the author of Rag and Bone, which won the 2010 Elixir Press Prize. She is an associate professor of English at University of Central Missouri, where she also serves as Poetry Editor for Pleiades. New poems have recently appeared in West Branch, 32 Poems, Nimrod, and at Versedaily.com.