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CHRIS DOMBROWSKI Bird in My Boot

I have a bird in my muck boot, a leak
that collects water and squeaks with each
step. I thought to patch it but prefer

the company of an invisible warbler
who’s quiet until I walk and goes with me
until I pause, perhaps a lark, can’t tell,

its call muffled under footfalls, refugee
of the seraphim to be sure.  In a dark time,
a poet born near my birthplace wrote,

the eye begins to see. He also knew how
to spell Tittabawassee and that it flowed
via the Saginaw into a desecrated bay

like the shining eyes of a drinker
dulling as a bottle drains. I’m not
refuting, only saying that the ear

begins to hear as well, mine did, slight
wings and their settling.  I lived on a bay
I wished to enter permanently despite

a beloved’s touch and the predawn
whisperings of our children in the room
adjacent, and took heart in the poet’s

wondering if madness wasn’t nobility of soul
at odds with circumstance
until a young man
several states away, a child himself, entered

a school and shot twenty children. I untacked
the quoted syllables from the wall. Madness
was madness, that’s all. The wind that day

blew very hard and a kestrel hover-hunting
coastline snatched a woodcock from the air,
turning the late migrant into a formless

swirl of feathers, then stood in the yard
picking plumage from its prey’s upturned
breast. Slick meat hanging from its beak,

it stared me down, masked eyes looking past
my human to the one that aches to survive—
it lit ultimately in a blur of grey-orange,

leaving its mark to billow as it disappeared
into that country owned by the winged,
upon whose constant intercession I depend.

Chris Dombrowski is the author of two full-length poetry collections, most recently Earth Again (Wayne State University Press, 2013), and the memoir Body of Water (Milkweed Editions, 2016).  He lives with his family in Missoula, MT, where he directs the Beargrass Writing Workshops.