Bird by Charlie Bondhus


Wild birds fly into a man’s home;
the resident will soon depart.
                                                -Jia Yi


The last Sunday in autumn brings snow
which sticks only to the cars, spreading

a cataract-thin scrim across the windshields.
From beneath lumped covers, you claim to hear it

beating the window,
sounding, you say

like hummingbird wings,
slowed to a heartbeat.

Your voice mimics the wind,
emphasizing sibilance and plosive, tripping

over the slight demands
of nasals and fricatives.

The rambling sheets and strewn pillows
conceal you, suggesting an unpersoned bed,

something to haunt me
as I cook breakfast.

Head on paws, Akiba watches
me pouring the orange juice, brewing coffee,

cracking eggs and frying bacon
in the black pan, where the brightly-colored

yolks seem to be stating the glib truism
that there is beauty in death.

When you enter the kitchen,
your cheek is marked

with a small, purple half-moon.
My breath becomes like the tearing of paper.

You stopped taking them, I say.
You sigh, and in so doing, present

an illusion of mastery,
the bruise-colored shape

shrinking, growing, twisting
as if beholden

to the puppetry
of the living body.

I’m sure there’ll be a poem, you deflect,
parceling your bitterness,

but what rhymes with sarcoma?
We sit, angry men sharing a meal,

our eyes circling the dusty
centerpiece, the golden toast,

the condiments gleaming
in their cut-glass bowls, when

suddenly, there’s a bird,
one of the small, brown ones

(a sparrow?) skipping tentatively
across the smooth laminate.

How did it get in?
Akiba does not bark.

More interested than threatened
he approaches, sniffs. The bird flutters

from floor to countertop, seemingly
the least concerned

of the four living beings in the room.
It pecks a crumb, regards us

with one black, convex eye
then coasts from countertop

to kitchen sink. The flue,
I blurt, cold last night.

You stand, give chase, waving
your hands as if casting a spell, and

now Akiba begins to bark.
I watch you, dog, and bird bolt

in a haphazard parade
through the living room

and out to the foyer, where you open
the door, letting in snowflakes,

until our visitor disappears
into the gray-white morning.

The dog sits on the carpet beside you,
in the spot worn thin

by years of booted feet.
Leaving the door open,

you stand, peering
at the moist, dying grass,

the frost-tipped bushes,
the bundled and low-slung sky,

while over your shoulder I spy
in the shadow of the pine,

some four-legged, purple mass,
limping and feral,

sniffing the earth, scavenging
the last scraps of autumn.



Read A Poet in Conversation(s) With Art by Jessamyn Smyth



Charlie Bondhus’s second poetry book, All the Heat We Could Carry, won the 2013 Main Street Rag Award and the Publishing Triangle’s 2014 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His work appears or is set to appear in numerous journals. He is the Poetry Editor at The Good Men Project (