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Scott Owens   Contributor -- North Carolina


Scott Owens is the author of The Fractured World (Main Street Rag, 2008), Deceptively Like a Sound (Dead Mule, 2008), The Moon His Only Companion (CPR, 1994),  The Persistence of Faith (Sandstone, 1993), and the upcoming Book of Days (Dead Mule, 2009).  He is co-editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, coordinator of the Poetry Hickory reading series, and 2008 Visiting Writer at Catawba Valley Community College .  His poems have appeared in Georgia Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Greensboro Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cream City Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Cottonwood, among others.  Born in Greenwood, SC, he is a graduate of the UNCG MFA program and now lives in Hickory, NC

13 Ways of Birds


“Madeline, Madeline, don’t look at me that way

with peacocks flying out of your eyes.”

--Robert Desnos



Purple finches pluck white

seeds of dandelion. Cardinals

clear cups of tulip trees.



You watch the nidification of wrens,

the careful placement of each leaf,

each lost piece of string.



In apple trees you see

sparrow’s mouths full of petals,

waxwings falling like leaves.



You’ve made your yard a nesting ground.

Last year there were 16 purple finches,

2 cardinals, 4 wrens, a starling

with a white stripe on its tail.



Counter-colored figures of birds

fill your waking:  sparrows and finches,

juncos and doves, nuthatch and thrasher.



Doves fly war-like creases

across a white sky.  Blue jays

stand winking their facetious collars.



You’ve fallen in love with the rufous sides

of towhees, the coal eyes of titmice,

meadowlarks’ perfect posture.



Catbird comes singing to your window,

his greater repertoire polished smooth.

You speak back in your own several tongues.



You remember the wood thrush’s wooden

music, the magic flute that says

the woods are nothing but leaves singing.



You remember blackbirds in pecan trees,

in church yards, rising and falling

like gusts of wind, like hands,

like leaves returning to the sky.



You love to hear the night alive

with mockingbirds’ singing, with bats’ wings,

with whippoorwills calling you out

into darkness you thought you’d never find,

their dead-leaf bodies seen

only in the transformation of names.



The old man of the sky turns

his swivel head, asks the names

of those still awake, his enormous

eyes taking in everything.



Hawk soars across the cloud

of your hand.  Hummingbird laps the words

away.  Red tail, red throat

shine your eyes wide again.

To Resist Fading


from Walker Evans’ photograph “Bud Field and His Family”


Who can keep them from fading

into walls, floors, their bare feet,

bare shoulders as unwashed

as where they move, their clothes

older than their bodies, worn

like skins that can’t be changed.


Who can keep them from disappearing

beneath the rooves falling in,

the walls leaning in at odd angles.

The man’s arms are all but given out,

given up, his hands too big

to handle the youngest sleeping heavy

in his mother’s lap, her face

hard and masculine, her legs,

her shoulders bent beneath the load

of children, her arms as big

as his and nearly as strong.


Who can keep them from the dust

gathering in corners, in cracks

between the wood, from darkness

growing in doorways, creeping

up every road they know.


The old one is worn out

from too much labor, too little care,

too long a life like hers.

The years crawl through her fingers

wringing in pain, through her feet

swelling from constant standing.

The young one doesn’t know any better,

thinks this is the only way,

will grow up hungry and happy,

his belly constantly sore.


There is only this one,

with eyes like caverns, a face

round as a question, legs

already scraped and scratched

but standing like none of the others,

a pillar between the walls,

between the doors and windows,

holding all that falls, apart.

There is only this one

I need to believe will make it.

all copyrights belong to Scott Owens
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