Too Many Beaks to Fill

October 09, 2013


One of the first things an aspiring writer must learn is to pay attention, to look intently at what is going on. Here’s a good example of a poem by Gabriel Spera, a Californian, that wouldn’t have been possible without close observation. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Grubbing

The jay’s up early, and attacks the lawn
with something of that fervor and despair
of one whose keys are not where they always are,
checking the same spots over and again
till something new or overlooked appears—
an armored pillbug, or a husk of grain.
He flits with it home, where his mate beds down,
her stern tail feathers jutting from the nest
like a spoon handle from a breakfast bowl.
The quickest lover’s peck, and he’s paroled
again to stalk the sodgrass, cockheaded, obsessed.
He must get something from his selfless work—
joy, or reprieve, or a satisfying sense
of obligation dutifully dispensed.
Unless, of course, he’s just a bird, with beaks—
too many beaks—to fill, in no way possessed
of traits or demons humans might devise,
his dark not filled with could-have-beens and whys.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Gabriel Spera from his most recent book of poems, The Rigid Body, Ashland Poetry Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Gabriel Spera and the publisher.  Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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2 comments

  1. I really like this poem. We really do try to put human characteristics on animals, and usually that is inappropriate. I bet this is an older poem because I don't remember reading it. Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. Glad you liked it, Cheryl. I just read a piece in the paper about some researchers studying dogs' emotions by training them to go into an MRI machine without restraint or drugs.

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