Keep Looking (3) —Jennifer Bullis
Swainson’s thrushes’ early-summer songs
spiral upwards through the fir-and-cedar dusk.
I am looking for something beautiful
and complicated. Ornithologists say
what sounds like a single note to human ears
is actually a multi-sonic lexical packet
winging significances from bird to bird.
In the deep shadows, the hot lung of the forest
exhales a faint hum of gnats and mosquitoes.
I greet and pass another walker—
she is wearing the same bug-repel oil
I used to spray on my mare every day
in summer: essences of calendula, lavender,
citronella, eucalyptus. The pungence
meets my nose and flings me back to the barn—
in June, her coat so deep a sorrel as to be purple,
its gloss iridescing, almost, in sunlight,
her breath the sweet scent of spring grass,
her muzzle cupped in my palms in our gesture
of bonding. What if God
is the looking for God?
Lord, I am looking for peace in this landscape,
but it keeps trilling Memory, memory, memory.
Ornithologists say that spiraling song
is the male Swainson’s thrushes’ nesting-territory
protection call, meaning something like
I’m here, go away, go away, away. But what if
that call were actually to their mates, perhaps
flown off to catch beakfuls of mosquitoes
and gnats, and the birds are singing
My beloved, remember to come back,
come back, come back?