Angels, however crude, fear a few places, according to E. M. Foster, but the same cannot be said of poets. Boundlessly curious, no subject is off limits for bards like Suzanne Cleary to tread. New Yorker Cleary earned her Pushcart Prize and Cecil Hemley Memorial Award for letting ’er rip, with humility and humor. The author of four collections, she teaches creative writing to MFA students at Converse College.
Known for your blunt beak beating against bark,
your voice described impatient, loud, and slurred,
you are not Peterson’s favorite bird.
Your grating sound is nothing like the lark.
It’s more like the tire-chain’s shudder, torque,
As the snowplow fights downshift into third.
Tree-clung, chisel-billed, wood-boring bombard,
you are not Spring except the grinding work
of spring: clearing fallen branches, raking
dead leaves, piling stone onto stones. Thick beak
hacking bark is your truest song, clacking
knock-knock-knock, loud, unapologetic.
Unlike the birds that trill and soar, you moor.
You drill, pursuing spring’s interior.
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