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Antillean Euphonia

Green-throated Carib,
Cardinal Honeyeater:
plumed scraps of postage,
they perch between perforations

on this sheet of stamps,
a quartet repeating
in regular rotation.
Just four make a flock,

a tropic placed in my hand
by a tired postal clerk,
a kind black woman
who’s been fractioning out

the means of speech
all this hot October morning.
Does she actually see
what a gift they seem,

in this city where nothing
seems to be singing?
I need a Crested Honeycreeper
worrying the pink foam

of a flower, eyes all
hungry intent. And this one,
my favorite,
the yellow and indigo

bloom of him poised
above the eight syllables
of a name longer,
in the artist’s rendition,

than his body is:
Antillean Euphonia.
Name a song further
away than that!

I’m sitting in the parking lot
listening to the back-up
beep of a mail truck, sheet
of sunstruck birds in my lap,

specimens on a field
of glossy paper, perforations
framing rectangular islands
for little rare things, brilliant

on their demonstration branches:
Look what sings, the post office says,
in the world! Pause. Reconsider: Sang?
Music I hadn’t known existed,

and maybe it’s already gone.
Is that why his dark back
is turned toward me—already
intent on the silence

he’d hoped to fill with himself?
Does he perch only on
the tiny white duchy of his stamp,
nation with no anthem?

Share his little branch, look out
with him into that blank space,
the quiet ahead of us—is it?—
tuneless and long. But not really:

quick blast of police car radio,
somebody’s phone ringing,
airbrake and siren and shouting.
It’s the page that’s silent,

the bright bird’s tiny page.