by Nathaniel Perry

Vanished. Removed from sight. A bird’s direction
re-directed, unwound, re-winged at the touch
of a slight wind, a slighter light deciding
shadows all the while. I saw it, not much

of it, flash and cross over the lip of the hill.
A flick of feathers was all, but it is enough
to get me walking, or to keep me walking
in one direction, something small but rough

that’s touched me once inside and moved my feet.
All around the hillside is all spring:
wild mustard, clusters of henbit, rabbits, my footprints,
and the sounds I make are the sounds I hear, the ringing

of pulse in the ear, the swish of grass, my footsteps.
I keep expecting the bird to turn and rise
up over the hill, a thing that birds do well,
a sublimation, a perfect surge of pride

come on them all at once, a thing I’ve seen
so many times before, in so many other
birds. But this one isn’t rising, the flick
of its feathers still only in my mind. My brother

once described for me a fox he’d seen
in the mirror of his car. Just the tail,
but he said it was like a match to the woods behind
him, flared up in the afternoon light, the pale

November left-over leaves relit, redefined
by the animal. I’m hoping here on the hill
to get at least another glance of the bird
so I could likewise see the world stilled

in its small seconds, a half-turn of half-light,
a sky half-defined by what I see,
and half-redefined by how the bird would see it.
And what we’d see together then would be

forever lodged in my eye, something
I could return to. I must not have been looking
right the first time; all the light and the sky
has stayed the same; the hillside is a book

I cannot read. I do not even know
what kind of bird has crossed the lip of the hill.
I want a second-sight, another sight,
a memory to clip to the yellow foxtail

grass and the scent of honeysuckle beside
the trail. A wind is ranging in now over
the low hill. A bird wind, I think as I walk.
It’s coming harder, the weedgrass is bent, covering

the hill path. The path leads up, and I bend
my head to find and follow it. The mean
sun unwinds across the sky in the wind
as I climb to see again what I’ve already seen.

NATHANIEL PERRY’s poems and translations have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, West Branch, Cincinnati Review, Salamander and elsewhere. The editor of lyric and The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, he is Assistant Professor of English at Hampden-Sydney College in rural southside Virginia.