My bird, myself

Joan Houlihan
| poetry


Dwarf plants, brittle green,
A premature llama, a white giraffe
Splashed clean, a pouter pigeon
With an inflatable crop.
These are the limit of my estate.

The first pouter came out as a double-tail,
Made from the ancient rock pigeon.
An experiment that changed its cry
Five times. It was a private study—
Privacy causes asylums.

When I no longer speak, I listen.
Do you? Your listening,
Performed with a stethoscope,
Pins me to meaning
I didn’t mean. You are academic,
Reeking of the study.
I don’t deserve you.

My pouter rests on a spliced tree,
Scars of different ages
Giving it the history it needs.
I have a history you can’t see.

Joan Houlihan is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Shadow-feast. She is Professor of Practice at Clark University and also teaches in the Lesley University Low-Res MFA Program in Cambridge, MA. She is founder and director of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.

Now a Darkness is Coming