Bird Woman

Aug 24, 2018

Today's poem is “Bird Woman” by Elizabeth Tibbetts. Her book In the Well won the Bluestem Poetry Award. She has a new book called Say What You Can forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions. Elizabeth is a nurse who lives in Hope.

She writes, “My mother loved birds and kept her binoculars close. For years, she was the ‘Bird Lady’ for her garden club. She also hated waste, so saved all her orts for a flock of crows that traveled the neighborhood. They would spot her in the window and holler for food.  I wrote this in tribute and I’m glad I did so while she was alive.”

Bird Woman
by Elizabeth Tibbetts

Each morning, in all weather, they gather
in the high white pines along the back line
and watch the window.  And when she flickers
in the reflected trees they call loudly

until the porch door scrapes open and she
appears bearing a pan of crusts, cores, scraps
of fat, all but potato peels, which they
won’t eat.  She tosses the orts to the lawn,

inspects the day, then caws the waiting flock
down: six crows, black and lit as the jet beads
in the box on her bureau.  Each morning
she counts what is left of her backyard birds

(one pair of cardinals, chickadees, a mix
of finches, robins, summer’s ruby-throat,
and winter’s rare sweep of hungry waxwings
filling bare trees) now that weather’s fickle,

old fields and forests gone, and time has thinned
thick flocks to a trickle of song.  She’s not
heard the rustle and cheep of nesting swifts
inside the cold stovepipe since she was young. 

Once, she saw, heard, a swirl (was it bats?)—no,
it was swifts, dark and feather-light as soot
in the blue evening sky—arrive, circle,
whirlpool, then funnel by the hundreds

into a tall, thin brick chimney.  She thought
she’d watched broad day be inhaled by the past.
Now, if someone else would feed these crows, there
are things, yes, and birds, she would go back for.

Poem copyright © 2008 Elizabeth Tibbetts. Reprinted from Beloit Poetry Journal Winter 2008-2009, Vol. 59 No. 2, by permission of Elizabeth Tibbetts.