you can train yourself
read up on plumages and molts
body shapes and behavior
songs and call notes
habitat and migration patterns
the form and internal rhyme of birds
then you need to let it all go

the tools are simple enough
binoculars and a field guide 
notebook and pen
a place—mundane or exotic—
most important 
your eyes and ears
your attention
a willingness to be surprised

empty your mind
	a rustle in the thicket
	a thump of wings
	a murmured song
	a shadow of what passes overhead
	a movement in the grass
		or the corner of your eye
	a shape where there should be nothing
	an unexpected color
if you are patient
it will come to you
you will write 
	the haiku of a winter wren
	the limerick of a blue-footed booby
	the sonnet of a brown-backed solitaire
	or the free verse of a Brewer’s sparrow 
		singing on and on without taking a breath

you write the poem 
the bird, who does not need your help
sings the score 
and when it flies away
leaves you with a few notes
and a single 

Poem and Photograph by Janet Ruth

Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Fixed and Free Quarterly, Tulip Tree Review, The Ocotillo Review, Ekphrastic Review, and anthologies including Unknotting the Line: the Poetry in Prose (Dos Gatos Press, 2023) and Where Flowers Bloom (The Red Penguin Collection, 2022). Her first book, Feathered Dreams: celebrating birds in poems, stories & images (Mercury HeartLink, 2018) was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/