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Ron Padgett

Bird Songs — Three poems


You can’t expect
the milk to be delivered
to your house
by a bluebird
from the picture book
you looked at
at the age of four:
he’s much older
now, can’t carry those
bottles ‘neath his wing,
can hardly even carry a tune
with his faded beak
that opens some nights
to leak out a cry
to the horrible god
that created him.

Don’t think I’m
the bluebird, or that
you are. Let him get
old on his own and
die like a real bluebird
that sat on a branch
in a book, turned his head
toward you, and radiated.



The bluejay’s cry goes up on stilts and takes
a few brisk strides through the mixed deciduous trees,
some of which rustle. It’s not their answer.
They reach out and catch
him as he lands on branch and branch,
then flutters and stops: this
is his domain, and he is king.
He wears a little crown and in
his heart there is murder,
i.e., breakfast. The stilts rise again
in him and he cries out.


The Woodpecker Today    ( prose-poem )

The wings of the red-headed woodpecker flashed white as he landed on the deck rail, well fed and magisterial, and rattled off a quick succession of pecks. Then he hopped and drilled again, paused and drilled. As I began to doubt that he would be rewarded for his efforts, he raised his head to the sky and turned his neck to his left, as if to receive a message. Then he sprang into the air and flew around the side of the house. There were two brief bursts of drilling, then silence.

While he had drilled the rail, I recalled an article that explained why woodpeckers don’t get headaches. Apparently their skulls are lined with a spongy material that cushions the shock, a structure that resembles that of a football helmet. In fact, the article stated, modern football helmet design owes something to the woodpecker. As these thoughts ran through my head, for a moment I saw a small helmet materialize on the woodpecker’s head — a silver Detroit Lions helmet. I hope he comes back. I would like to get the entire uniform on him.

Ron Padgett’s most recent books are New and Selected Poems (David R.Godine) and Creative Reading: What it is, How to Do it, and Why (National Council of Teachers of English). He is also the translator of the Complete Poems of Blaise Cendrars (Univ. of California Press).
Ron Padgett lives in New York City, where he is the Publications Director for Teachers and Writers Collaborative.

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