Flute

Tapper and tinkerer, whenever
back in the trees a bird seemed
to be singing, See see me,
it drew you out of the rhythms
of your work. Time and again
you considered how a gourd rattle
could sound like a fistful of pebbles
against stone, or the first patter
of wind-tossed rain, and the clopping
of two rocks together like
aurochs hooves. Depending on
the hand, a skin stretched
on a hoop might be subtle enough
for heartbeats, or the first fisted
rumble of a storm. But with nothing
more than their beaks, the birds
made their whoops and carrocks
to announce a triumph or ask
sweet questions. So when you came
across the bones of a griffon vulture
on a field, and began to study
its wreckage for useful parts,
I can see you snapping off a likely
section of wing bone and rubbing it
with a chamois rag too far gone to wear,
thinking it over as that bird
among the leaves seemed to be
taunting See me see me, see see me,
and instead of sharpening the bone
you split it along both sides
with a flint point, then fit your fingers
to where you’d drill the holes before
you made it one bone again
and tried your breath down its length,
Thweep fee seep me in every variation
but the bird’s, though already
children by the fire were pointing
and running to you up the field.

Brendan Galvin’s recent collections include Whirl Is King: Poems From a Life List (2008) and Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965–2005, a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives on Cape Cod.
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