American Life in Poetry: ‘Bird’

With Dorianne Laux, I’ve shared the experience of having a bird enraged at her reflection in a window. Laux lives in North Carolina, and this is her third poem to be published in this column. Are you familiar with the archives on our website? You can find more than 600 of our weekly columns posted there, indexed by poet or by the title of the poem. Ms. Laux’s most recent collection is “The Book of Men” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012).


(Dorianne Laux)

For days now a red-breasted bird

has been trying to break in.

She tests a low branch, violet blossoms

swaying beside her, leaps into the air and flies

straight at my window, beak and breast

held back, claws raking the pane.

Maybe she longs for the tree she sees

reflected in the glass, but I’m only guessing.

I watch until she gives up and swoops off.

I wait for her return, the familiar

click, swoosh, thump of her. I sip cold coffee

and scan the room, trying to see it new,

through the eyes of a bird. Nothing has changed.

Books piled in a corner, coats hooked

over chair backs, paper plates, a cup

half-filled with sour milk.

The children are in school. The man is at work.

I’m alone with dead roses in a jam jar.

What do I have that she could want enough

to risk such failure, again and again?

Poem copyright 1990 by Dorianne Laux, “Bird,” from “Awake,” (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 1990). Poem reprinted by permission of Dorianne Laux and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006.