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a gift to you my heart would bring, the sweet release of everything, the breath I take before I sing …
—from “The Spaces In Between Us,” Jan Garrett and JD Martin

Some birds don’t sing.
It’s an evolution thing.

*

God, it’s soft, so
soft, the snow,
how whitely it gives beneath
the weight of my skis.
When the world’s this soft
I do not mind it,
gravity.

*

If I were alive
in the 18th century,
then I would wear
a dress with at least
one pair of pockets,
but they would be worn
underneath my petticoats
so no one would know
they were there.

*

It’s the syrinx that does it,
that holds the membranes
that vibrate when air
from the bird’s lungs
pass over them. And
it’s located down, down
in the chest where
the bronchial tubes branch off
each lung, which gives the syrinx
two sources of sound,
one from each bronchus.
Oh poor humans who
can only sing the most
simple songs.

*

It’s almost like flying
when I ski along the track,
elbows akimbo,
glide and kick, the snow-heavy
branches bend toward my lean,
my breath comes in and goes out
on great invisible wings.

*

An amber bead. A nickel.
A crumpled napkin
with a part of a poem
scribbled on it in red.
Lint, of course, a scrap
of hard bread and
the memory of your hand.

*

They just don’t need to sing,
turns out. The mallard
can easily spot his mate
as she waddles along the shore.
No elaborate tune necessary
to woo her. Just a simple quack
and a flash of his bright blue wing,
that’s all it takes to initiate
some fowlish dabbling. And the vulture,
who has no need to converse
with his kettle about where to find
the latest kill, he has no syringeal
muscles at all. It’s the birds that spend
their time in the trees that need
their voices to carry.

*

I sing as I move through the evergreens.
I can’t help it. The song has me
by the throat and will not
take silence for an answer,
no matter if I am out of breath,
no matter if I don’t remember
all the words.

*

You may wonder how
I would reach into those pockets
beneath my hoop petticoats.
There are openings in the seams
where my hands might slip through
and reach inside, not to locate
my mobile phone nor car keys
nor credit cards, but to rustle
around for a love letter written
with a quill dipped in ink from you.

*

Reasons to sing:
danger signal
dinner bell
love song.

*

In dreams, I have flown—
god, it’s marvelous to move
through the air. I have
no fear of flying, it’s
the landing that scares me.

*

Here, my love, I will sew you
a pocket of blue to wear in your
innermost thoughts where no one
can ever steal it. And in it,
I will slip a breath, and then
this song, the one I’ve been singing all day long
beneath the spruce trees,
the one that makes me think of you.
A bird would have no reason
to sing it. It’s a song about
gratitude.

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