Word For/ Word: A Journal of new writing

Genevieve Kaplan

What would you like us to be

lovers? children? tall birds claiming
the uppermost branches. the bounty
littering the ground. where
would you like us to go? how would you
like us to attend? (call to ease, a shadow
pushing through the blossoms. imagining
the path) charming, cheerful, not hanging
much on the details (the bird uses its beak
to disconnect the flower. the petals flung
from the tree) (whole blooms of them, tossing
pink to the ground.) (living here, used up,
is very damaging.) (nothing has gotten
more beautiful) (unless it's a secret
entrance). (exit.)

To keep them in the dirt is by design

a scattering the leaves (like footsteps), the way I
had envisioned, I wouldn't be able to bite, underserved
(and gnawing), the chicken flapping on the roof, calling down
to me, not about to be alone at this (or actually paralyzed
by its motion). the sky turns white as if (as if a blind)
we could crouch and hide. peek out from
(the breeze) the mess of branches. it's a sleek
furtive wing that flies near. it wants to taunt, to get caught

you're from a far-off place, according to your eyes
and you'll never be able to name all the birds here
crumb of sunlight through the fence-slat and push of dust
against the patio. which is where we're at? sullen desert?
as big a yard as we could want? something near us
taking place? not about to let go? for this day
to be shorter than the rest. this this day to be easier
and far enough from what suffers us

That flat look at the naive

and the gathering around was (the wires), the spit
on the ground, the fence so tall (the way it is) and now
encloses. as they look but don't want to describe
as their friends arrive. as a group of them
gathers squatting, rolling. so unbeautiful. not
so left behind, the lot, the fortunate sunset (how) (at that
hour). and would it matter, the dirt for growing, the asphalt
heating up. not so threatening, young man, the almost-shade
of the wisp-fence. in the not-quite of evening. spinning
(but controlled. departing with a close eye) a stained
fabric. a single-file walk (I follow behind. I look down)
(evenly) to the car. flat plane of a hand, outrageous
calm, smooth growth of the concrete. the fence stakes taller
even than the tallest broadest one. wires so thin they could be cut
(they could be cut) with what we brought

The pattern of their beating wings

the instinct is to hurry as the light fades
which is the pattern of their beating
the pattern (the arc) left behind by its beating
its proud head. it watches and it's shunned (it leaps
but can't fly) (footsteps and they all flew). one poses
on each branch, one keeps
its feet

Holding the sugar higher

the white reaching-up in the breeze, tiny
hummingbird near the purples, for the bees
to take, to grasp the sun (to shake it off), skittish
by the passing of an orange machine, the greens
hazing for what sounds here, for not a love
not, as someone is always stepping. the bird
comes back, the bee, the voices come along. am I
alone here? no. (and the longer, the less so.)

the handkerchief flitting there, the surrender
so the animal sounds, the machine, the human
silence comes, they veer right or left (the wrong
way), they find the dead end, the fence, the no-trespassing
yard. and the wires so tall, crossed only by (birds)
and they've stopped because they're so turned
because of the spider webbing the slats
of the bench. (and the machine doesn't care
there, the sugar-field (beneath the squirrel-tree), all
upturned saucers, all (church-going) bonnets, all
the very hat upon my head, taller than my very
shoulders. so the wrestling in the branches
shifts their upright stance, (earthly) stoicism, their moon-
gesture in the sunshine. the footfalls, the leaves
on the ground, the machine choking up the path. the steps
downward, cut into the hill and angled purposefully. and I
am surrounded.)