for Pattiann Rogers
did the canyon wren’s descending whistle
excavate the canyon?
or did the canyon’s steep walls
and tumbling stream far below—
architect of this gothic gash in the earth—
compose the score,
shape the notes cascading
from the wren’s white throat?
did the prairie sun, bursting
from a seam between earth and heaven,
dip goldenrod in sunflower petals,
paint the meadowlark’s breast
in feathered sunlight, retain a slash of night?
or did the meadowlark’s undulating song—
an aria performed in notes of liquid gold—
pull a wash across the sky
in shades of primrose and desert marigold,
lift the sun from his slumber
beneath oceans of grass?
did the cactus wren’s rough call
scratch out a desert landscape—
all things dry and sandy, burnt by sun,
with strings of diamonds coiled and rattling?
or did thorns of prickly pear and cholla
scrape the wren’s throat raw,
leaving nothing for wounded song
but hoarse, ratcheting cry?
did tumbling ice-blue waters of snowmelt—
mountains weeping dreams of canyons and oceans—
wash over the bird in a mountain meadow,
inspire him to sing the blues?
or did the mountain bluebird
stain meltwater in cerulean tones
from blues he husked at dawn,
just before the combustion of the sun?
did peaks and troughs of ocean waves,
surging and sucking, shape scalloped patterns
on outstretched wings of the waved albatross
slicing without song
down the face of a breaking wave?
or did the albatross—silent
since last her feet paddled Galápagos sand—
weave a secret, sonorous music
that sang ocean waves into being?
we of sophisticated brains,
scribe scientific names for birds
did we name tribes
as if naming was the same as creating?
or did these tribes—of ocean and desert,
of canyon, mountain and prairie—
with songs and silences,
feathers and wings, beaks and toes
dream a world that dreamt us all
scratch out poetry
that shaped us into being?
By Janet Ruth
Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Ocotillo Review, Sin Fronteras, Unlost: Journal of Found Poetry & Art, Ekphrastic Review, and anthologies including New Mexico Remembers 9/11 (Artemesia Publishing, 2020) and Sestina Troubadours: Writing in the Labyrinth (Poetry Playhouse Publications, 2020). Her book, Feathered Dreams, was Finalist for 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/