A Bird in the Hand
Once—while submerged in the astonishing
blue of vinyl liner and liquid—I heard
a sound sharp enough to pierce
water, to drag me out, dripping
across the scratchy grass. Beneath an oak,
a breathing clump of brownish something, maybe
a sparrow? I was ten; I did not know
names of birds or even painters—I couldn’t spot
the angle of her neck and call it “Picasso-esque”
as I might now. I could hardly feel
the weight of her in my hand, her hollow bones,
matted feathers, light as a Styrofoam cup.
Bird Watching at the End of the World
It’s not the premature heat, seething
in waves from pavement, that melts me
into anxiety. Not the conveyor belt of Vs
that flings itself north, earlier each year, its stray
feathers lost against backdrops of clouds
in alien climates. Or the sensation of not knowing
where the ocean ends: a cluster of seagulls
50 miles from any shore, loitering above
dumpsters, sneaking deep-fried remnants
clamped snugly in a beak. Not collages
of straw wrappers threading birds’ nests,
built in apertures of store-front signs. No.
It’s the sleek head, wings, routine undaunted,
so convinced it’s always been this way.
Upon Feeding a Pigeon in New York City
I have lured her close enough to my concrete bench
to see the sheen of oily down around her throat,
the twitches of her tail skimming sidewalk grout,
her rhythmic neck a fulcrum between the hunger
inside her and the eyes searching to satisfy it. I break
a handful of crackers, leftover from lunch, and toss them.
Fascinated, I watch her waddle to my scattered crumbs,
her feet colored the flesh of a pink grapefruit. I lean
my head over to watch her, until I’m hit with the scent
of stale beer, old cola. A faint chorus of aluminum cans
chatter like cheap wind chimes. In my periphery,
a man has plunged elbow-deep into trash. Without looking –
I cannot look – I know he is unshaven and ashamed.
Lisa Mangini holds an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University, where she also teaches composition. Her work can be found or forthcoming in Knockout, Louisiana Literature, Clockhouse Review, American Journal of Nursing, and Stone Highway Review. She is the founding editor of Paper Nautilus, and the recipient of the 2011 Connecticut Poetry Prize.