Lisa Mangini

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.

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