local_library Birds Hitting Glass

by Anne Pierson-Wiese

Published in Issue No. 128 ~ January, 2008

On the way to my job the other day I saw

a pigeon sail out of the park on a tide

of morning light, coast weightless across the wide

street and swoop smack into the glass wall

of a bus stop shelter. There was the soft sound

of a pillow being punched, the bird slid

down against the glass, wings frozen askew mid-

flight and then suddenly was up – rebounding

into the air, gaining altitude gradually

like a small plane with a bomb in its belly,

banking over the traffic uncertainly

and returning to the shelter of the trees,

leaving in the fine dust on the glass a faint

tracery of feathers at point of impact.

This made me remember other birds hitting glass.

The hawk diving with unerring aim from high leaves

along the parkway, as if lured by the windshield’s

flash, and glancing off darkly – half thud, half flap

into the shoulder grass. The partridge storm-blown

with a neck-snapping crash into a cottage

window in Vermont, cracking the ripple-edged

19th century glass – hard to know

how, lifting its sleek, freckle-feathered, hollow-boned

body from the sodden and soil-spattered fern

border the next morning – like air breaking ice.

The chickadees drunk on the cherries that lie

fermenting in the sun each summer

outside the new library with its blue-stoned

walk, ornamental fruit trees, and three-story plate

glass wall designed to let the public glimpse

tiers of books inside but proving fatal

to the scores of tiny birds taking off tipsy

with all the conviction that accompanies

drunkenness. The shock of slamming up against

reality happens more slowly when you don’t have wings.

Next Day in Ann Arbor

Clouds shredding into oblivion off the wings,

of the plane. Out of nowhere rain beads the windows

during descent and there are murmurs of surprise

in the cabin – no one has been led to expect

rain. Up and down the aisle rise snatches

of tales of umbrellas left behind.

Weather is the commonality when traveling.

When all else fails, there is the weather.

But after the damp evening and a dispiriting

dinner with unfamiliar colleagues, the next day

in Ann Arbor dawns clear pink outside my hotel

window, rising into high blue as I leave

for my meeting and by late afternoon

I am free of the conference room.

As one pursued I dive into a secondhand

bookstore with proudly unalphabetized

poetry – dusty antidote to professional

tomfoolery. Quixote had his tales

of chivalry and I hold in front of me

the small shields of Don Blanding’s Hawaiian

paradise, Carlyle’s present and his past,

the wise words of Ogden Nash.

Later, with my bag of books I roam the green sunset

streets of Ann Arbor, senses alert as if I

am tracking or being tracked, searching or being

searched for – how much time we spend making connections

because we ought to and breaking them because we

need to, all along hoping to be relieved

of the responsibility for carrying

on as planned. After all, we know the trump of beauty

when we see it: this yard full of poppies

in the lowering sun – hundreds of fragile red

faces, translucent-edged, buoyed up by their flat, black

hearts, their wayward stems listing drunk in the light, each

one more fiery than the giant neon Firestone

sign floating over the neighborhood on its white

pillars, more burning than anything humans

have made, and – like the weather – more out of reach.

Original Sliver

On Convent Avenue, tucked between one

building and another, is a small pie-

shaped slope of grass and rock with a chestnut

tree on top that blooms surreptitiously

each spring, its ghostly green-white scepters lost

in a gloom of steel and brick. In autumn

it looses a cascade of horny husks

that tumble down the hill to line the walk

until the rain and frost unfasten them

to show their crease of glowing nut. I pause

whenever I am walking by to see

the way it tapers toward the sky, this cut

of land too thin or steep for use by men – why

else would they have left it here, this origin?

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Anne Pierson Wiese's first collection, Floating City (Louisiana State University Press, 2007), received the Academy of American Poets 2006 Walt Whitman Award. She received a 2005 Fellowship in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and was also a winner of the 2004 "Discovery"/The Nation poetry prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, among them: Ploughshares, The Nation, Hudson Review, Southern Humanities Review, Raritan, Southwest Review, and Poetry International. Her work has been anthologized in Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn (New York University Press, 2007), and featured by The Writer's Almanac and American Life in Poetry.