Joseph Bradshaw

from The Way Birds Become Homonyms: an Aviary

Shapes / of poems / fly out of the dark.


When I burst into a million
birds so wonderfully you
won't know which look like dinner and
which don't. And no greeting card to
the birds will stitch this skin
over wilderness or even over the dread
of writing someone else's poem.
Because the birds arrive breathless.
To whet them, drinking no alphabet,
no reader's inhabiting this body,
it's the other hand touching the birds
asking "who or where are you."

A treeful of white
noise is a sufficient answer.

A bird's breath is in my throat.


To say this ocean is or is like a poem
is like a fist pounding your head into
the shape of a bird's, a violent soma
stuttering the second person pronoun
birds. When I kill you for this last
time, you'll roll over, playing dead so well
it seems almost real. To murder in this
dirty sea, all I have to say is "you." Then
The chalky birds or boats stand still

Murder: also singular, no birds inside.


What a blind bird would think is green
is what I see in a bird's wing.
The shadows cast in flight are shelter,
the nests the bird's forgotten, fallen
twigs and yellowed stems.
But you cannot enter a bird's domain,
nor can a passing bird enter
what is, a shadow merely
a murder of color. If a bird
kills you at this its door, you hold your
heart like a stumbling cowboy,
the sixshooter gripped to the last crumbling
drop. The gun still cocked.
You could never ride a bird like a horse
because only I can own these chapped thighs
heartless and raw as a frozen bird.

Bequeathing your white feathers to the moon


you'll rescind the wind and
rain, or be rescinded
in a single gust. The birds will exit
the poem then as frail as your Latin
rescindebimini or birds will be
torn open. You'll be torn open
as if by a torrent of wasps,
asundered like an animal who never
endeavored to feel the patterns of weather.
And then all your swan figurings
crack, reduced to the common knowledge
that your neck can never bend,
beak never tear quite as well as a pelican's.

I felt a bird had come true.


The possibilities you tear out of
a bird never precludes that I can see you from
underwater, like baby Jessica at the bottom of
the well, looking upward at the glimmer that used to be
the world. If a bird sees you there
it looses voice. And this we both know.
You knew that silence could be as comforting and full
as an overstuffed pillow. If you lay down
a bird, you both fall asleep
though the longer you lie, the less
I can see. The longer you stay with a bird the older it gets,
hair silvering.

I see no possibility beyond this bird, its
wings as saggy and old as a friend
unrecognizable after a long separation.
Like a longed for presence, and so easily
taken for a wolf, the bird is mere conjecture
from "pieces of the past arisen from the rubble,"
made to make do. Its flashing still causes a
trembling in every swoop of annual return.

Not even the birds know where they are going.


Dogs under the moon
howl the sea so close
to you, your swoon. Watch
how the hair and whiskers grow
outward, drown
in a soft meter birds
rhyming shafts of ocean split
as if a last rind unpeeling.
These are the eyes
of only a bird. Jettied beak
open, no sundering light
protrudes outward from
plumes of frangible cloud.
Animal only in the arms, birds
drive themselves into sky
speckled like a rhyme. You
remain only under
the moon, salt and pepper
patches ungrowing like children.

about Joseph Bradshaw