Wednesday, April 06, 2011

National Poetry Month - William Wenthe

In honor of National Poetry Month 2011, we will spend the rest of April revisiting some of the fine poems published in Ninth Letter in years past. First up, "Great-Tailed Grackle" by William Wenthe, originally published in 9L volume 3 no. 1, Spring/Summer 2006, and forthcoming in Wenthe's new collection Words Before Dawn (LSU, 2012).

Great-Tailed Grackle

Had the Greeks such grackles,
                Socrates might have cackled
                                with proof, to hear you squawk

you name. But speak again
                and rebuke him: such barbaric
                                banging on a brazen pot,

such clatter as Cratylus
                could stuff down the wattled throat
                                of the bickering Athenian.

Let them prattle of truth. For who
                is more surprised than you
                                by your own voice?

How you huff your shoulders
                like a bodybuilder, lower
                                your head, crane your neck

till feathers prickle,
                and yellow eyes boggle

--two whistles, lark-sweet,
                a radio static crackle
                                and hiss, a bacon-fat

squeal and gurgle, punctuated
                by a sort of self-inflicted
                                Heimlich Manuever.

At home in the most
                unheimlich of places--
                                airport and parking garage--

you drag that purple
                prow of tail feathers, magpie-
                                proud, and promenading, stage

your courtship display, pointing
                skyward your beak,
                                as if to gimlet

a hole in heaven
                until that telltale tail
                                molts away in autumn,

leaves you strutting
                like a stunted, bobble-
                                headed chicken;

but even then, you wear
                a minor goddess
                                on your back--Iris

of iridescence--and you
                who stand for nothing
                                else: you wallow in your noise.

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