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

Jennifer Bullis

Jennifer Bullis is author of the chapbook Impossible Lessons (MoonPath Press). Her poems and essays appear in Gulf Coast, Tinderbox, Water~Stone Review,, Tahoma, and Green Linden. Her manuscript The Tongue of Narcissus, in which “Keep Looking (3)” appears, is a finalist for the 2018 Brittingham & Pollak Prizes. She earned a Ph.D. in English at University of California, Davis, and lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she taught college writing and literature for 14 years.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2017