Poetry May 1999

Woodcock

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audioear picture Hear Erica Funkhouser read this poem (in RealAudio).

If you must possess something,
own it as she does her scrubby acre,
her seasonal work, the nomad's habit
of messing up the grass
until it looks like a careless footstep

and calling the fuss a nest
before laying two spotted eggs
upon which to fix
a native vigilance.

Claim it as she claims
these impatient evenings of early spring,
many footsteps in the weeds.
Try to acquire something
of her reckless voice,
the bright tines of the repeated bleeps
as she declares the precise coordinates
of all she wishes to conceal.

If necessary, take to the air
in ever more eccentric circles,
as her mate does, his nosedive
the last thing visible before dark.

And when you move on,
after the chicks have mastered
their own cryptic coloring,
migrate defiantly.
Be glad to be done
with this quarried-to-death terrain.

Erica Funkhouser teaches a poetry-writing workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of Sure Shot and Other Poems (1992) and The Actual World (1997).
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