Self: Ornithology: The Immune System

by | Feb 10, 2008 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT, Magazine, Word | 0 comments

Everywhere I go now there are crows, following
me like innuendo, their feathers fanning out ominous
as police fingerprints. With evolutionary anthropology,
they are condemning me. They are lining me up with similar criminals.
Perhaps they assume I have been left for dead. Perhaps I
have done something wrong, impersonated a bird.
My internal protection, that autoimmune aviary of pensive
orioles, sees too much. I know we should love,
as you wrote, like we have never been hurt.
But we don’t. The crows are preying on damage.
Regulating photosynthesis like coal miner’s lungs.
And those lungs, that history, dies underground
in the ruby and grenadine of our emotional serology.
Now they have come to remind me of the forgotten
Kentucky that fed and fueled the train of my body,
with all of its personalities and lumber. The Midnight strangers
have violated the liquid slumber of my life.
And I cannot pretend I do not notice them in the haze
of endless twilight sleep. And I cannot
tuck them under my eyelids in this leather surrender.
My skin is not that used. My skin still looks like skin.
And this is what they hate, with talons like bootblack fingernails,
the parts of me that are not toughened. But here’s the strange
thing: their cawing, like the familiar viral pain, is a kind
of comfort. I am glad when they appear
so I can wave to them and prove I’m still fighting their diagnosis.
They see hubris in an additional spectrum. They see
my waving and think I’m trying to fly
to them. Some days, they are simply charmed by my
efforts against the wind shear. When my injured immunity
swings from whippoorwill to myopic mole, they remind me
I must depend on internal animals. And while I walk and fear
some awful violence of invisible sky, they think, let’s
put her on trial for she abases, she abets. And then, let’s forgive
her lithe body its halo of ultraviolet.

Originally published in the Spoon River Poetry Review, Spring 2002.


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