Several winters before we divorced
she looked at me through the living room window
as I sat on a stump in the snow, my felt hat
like a black hole over my head.

I had tried three days already, waiting on the stump
one hand held out, filled with birdseed.
The robins and grossbeaks kept their distance.
Foxtail sparrows gathered like tiny hens around my boots.

Chickadees and nuthatches came to my knee, then ran off
to the iron birdfeeder pole or into the fir trees or the sycamore.
For three days nothing came to my hand. But on the fourth try,
as she watched from inside with a camera, a bird

touched its toes to my thumb. It picked a sunflower seed
and was gone. I didn’t dare look. I didn’t dare
tilt my head to see which species to thank.  It’s toes were gently sharp
it’s beak so precise I felt nothing touch my palm.

My veins opened, my lips grinned and I thought
this is what trees must feel every spring and summer,
and why they lose their leaves in winter, and why,
nearly two years after I left, or she left, I think of that bird

in my hand, how it came and left too fast to see.
But not too fast to feel the small grip of it’s toes
on the tip of my thumb, it’s surgical beak
snatching one of maybe ten seeds, and leaving.


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