. No thought of honor ever did assay
. His baser breast, but in his kestral kynde
. A pleasant veine of glory he did find.
. Edmund Spenser, “The Fairie Queen” II.iii.4.
Crank of dusk, a leper’s clicket,
in spring it rises above the rooftops,
skirts the cliffs on the western edge
of this city. On racketing wings
it rises and plummets, wings
stroking laterally, a bell’s clapper
above the street noise. It draws
spirals in the air, whistles and follows
me where honeysuckle
sweetens the street.
Don’t think I don’t see it
there, over my shoulder,
flitting among thin wires of the sky.
All night it waits near the window
at the foot of my bed
and watches my sleep.
All night it calls to another
high above, calls to the moon’s choir.
With a flourish, the throttling talon
raises hell across the mouse’s back,
with wing thrusted surge
and bolted breath, it knows me
and fires my sleep. In a black
and cricketing factory
the articulate chorister keens.
When school was over,
when the summer began,
when I left my friends and books
and the cafeteria’s sad smell,
I’d wander the summer, follow
my bike wheels through the woods,
past the parking lots in town,
looking. There were streams
below bridges, damp thickets
by the sandpit, the field
behind the school redolent
and the birds in that field.
Let’s count them and name
the names my mother said.
Cardinal, robin, jay, crow,
unseen owls and flocks of sparrows,
finches, chickadees and
endless endless starlings.
At the edge of the ball field
where I’d played baseball badly,
behind the stands, nearly
at the street, a moment of doubt.
I’d never seen this bird before.
It was nothing I’d ever seen.
It was far from home.
I knew the summer
was already over. I knew
it was going to end.
Already there were so many
things I’d never know.
Before that bird, there was only
breathing and beating wings,
but since that day on the edge
of the wood on the edge
of the field at the edge
of the summer, the breast
and the beak, the fluttering
wing and spiraling coil,
the banking turn, the flash
and lash of color at the top
of the turn through the leaves
at the top of the tree –
since then there’s been nothing
but falling light and nothing falling.
About the Poet
Matt Cariello has published three books of poems, A Boat That Can Carry Two (2011), Talk (2019), both from Bordighera Press, and The Empty Field (2022, Red Moon Press.) He’s had stories, poems, haiku, and reviews published in Bennington Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Poet Lore, Ovunque Siamo, Evening Street Review, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, The Long Story, Indiana Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Italian Americana, Typehouse, and The Journal. He’s currently a senior lecturer in the English department at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.