2017 Winning Fischer Prize Poem “Tanager”

In Talking Gourds by TI StaffLeave a Comment

TANAGER
​There are people who spend this pink hour of dawn walking the perimeters of skyscrapers
​in Houston, never looking up, gathering birds that have crashed against the great walls of
mirrored windows, bewildered by all this broken sky and endless squares of cloud. And
there is a Texas man who crosses to Matamoros every morning, stacks of flyers on the
cracked seat beside him: La has visto? Missing seven years. They are never coming back,
the girl, the years, they are never coming back, the flocks that once darkened the plain
wide skies like purple clouds, but there are goldfinch, and warblers, and martins tucked in
every tree, nature’s secret, until their desperate hallelujah at the orange edge of dawn.
Some of the birds are dead and some will die on folded towels in boxes tucked beneath
desks or in car trunks, old women’s tears wetting the broken beaks, the perfect feathers,
but a few will be released to wing again into the treacherous sky. Now the wayward
daughter dances for a slab-faced man whose fists bristle with folded dollars, or she
washes laundry for beans and oranges, or she has lain at the bottom of a rocky ravine
since the morning of the slammed door, since her father’s words were spoken; that can’t
be undone. But here a scarlet-throated bird is cupped in a man’s rough palm, a thick
finger strokes its bright breast, and in response, a trembling.

-Anna Scotti

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