23 years I’ve lived in Philly and still
each spring— the pink —
In Fairmount Park the Canada geese
are wild in the way that
rats are wild, in that no one
invited them and like the city’s
homeless, they fend for themselves.
Our Canadian-American geese
migrate from the west side
of the river to the east. Unless
they don’t feel like that much commotion
breaking open azalea-crazed spring days.
These geese roam only the Schuykill River.
These geese will take your offered treats
but will bite the hand that feeds them.
These geese will get all up in your business.
These geese leave landmines
of bacterially-loaded fecal matter clusters
in clumps of hundreds everywhere they go.
These geese do what they want, don’t care
what you think, and will give
as good as they get any day of the week.
These are Philadelphia geese.
Watching a flock of Philadelphia geese
you can’t help but notice white geese
scattered here and there—farm animals
gone feral, washed down the river, needing
a home, taken in by the flocks
of brotherly love. Every spring
some of the goslings are white-headed
but speckled or dark-faced but white-backed—
the first generations
of a native Philadelphia goose.
These Philadelphia geese—most days
we barely notice them, or we complain
about their shit
or their attitudes.
But each May we watch, needing to see
the yellow-green gosling announcement
that spring has fully ripened, needing
the traffic-stopped for goose-crossing excuse
for staring at the river rather than hurrying
to work, needing the honking sunset flight
as witness to a day’s passing, needing the shock
to our heart beats as our geese
fly so close overhead we feel the beat
of their wings through our shared air and breathe
to their native goose rhythm:
Mocking West Side Story
The robins have been fighting for weeks.
Today the mockingbirds begin
screaming in harsh gutturals as they battle
from branch to branch to
rock to grass to lawn chair. Their cries
are so avian, so ordinary—they
disappoint me so. I expected finger
snapping, clarinet riffed Jets are gonna rumble,
or a shrilly whistled Keep coolly cool boy
while somewhere, three yards over,
a female is throttling her wish
that there be no morning star.
And why not? These are urban mockingbirds.
On a wire above my train station, I hear
one cycling daily through his repertoire—sparrow,
wren, crow, cardinal, chickadee, cat, squirrel,
tmobile jingle, tripartite car alarm from hell—
aweir aweir aweir aweir aweir aweir
weirrrr-YUP, weirrrr-YUP, ANKH ANKH ANKH—
a performance always closed with the sound of commuters
saying goodbye to their cars: beep BEEP beep.
One heartbreak morning he reminded me this is only
another tequila sunrise, then, after the new tattoo,
mocked me with the chorus of Margaritaville.
So I expect a Broadway soundtrack. It is his job
to be familiar to me, so I won’t consume him
the way humans have always consumed all that is
unknown, silencing difference before it might sing to us.
I was at a writing workshop yesterday called “Fatty Girls, Imaginary Cocks, and Vaginas Like Bookstores” at the Split This Rock poetry festival. I think I’ll have several new poems coming out of their writing prompts. Here’s the first, as I wrote it in the workshop, all associate, sound-based flow of ideas. Look for rewrites soon. And—Yo, Philly friends—if I’m missing something significant, let me know!
Bryn Mawr Cunt
Mount Airy Cunt
Chestnut Hill Cunt
Cheese Steak Cunt
Water Ice Cunt