D. James Smith

The Bird Tree

Come the blue dusk they
are a chattering city above you.

In the branches of a spruce,
their shrill cries like thin strips of tin,

chaffing, metal on metal,
wordless and ancient.

Your arms, which were once
fins, twitch at the sight of them.

But, you are a man;
to rise would mean hanging from a tree

for awhile. And the dying part.
This is happening. Every day

your hands are sore,
and seem to glow with an x-ray’s

fluorescence, flinching now
even at the turning of doorknobs.

You watch the god-step in their hop
limb to limb, and name

after name you could give them
and not understand

that purple and green iridescence
glossed over their black, enviable bodies,

the brilliant yellow of their eyes,
black, too, at the centers, and shining.

Moon like a zeppelin, bright
between the leaves, drifts east

toward a bank of storm clouds.
Excited, the birds weave thin ropes of air

around the mast of the tree,
spindled and back-lit

by herds of standing stars.
You approach and the rushing

black surf lifts away. The rain,
heavy as blood, comes down

into the small
spoons of your hands.