If You Stop for a Moment, You’ll Realize You Can’t Hear the Singing

by Kelli Russell Agodon


Already, I notice how the waxwings are a shadow
in the garden; ghost birds that once ate the dark berries
have stopped returning. If we were a different kind of wild,

we might hang a small wreath of orchids on the fence
post, but maybe we were too busy to notice, maybe
we were driving to places that write us checks

for doing something someone else doesn’t want to do.
It’s 1 pm on a Saturday, and I want to climb back into bed
after trying to sketch the horizon, after trying to identify

the waterfowl that sound like clarinets. It’s still
foggy. If I hold binoculars after the haze has lifted
I might see a barge in the distance, a nuclear sub,

a kingfisher. The light is touching my lower leg,
making the ripples in the water seem like a miracle.
They are a miracle, I say to the sky.

I hate that there are birds I still can’t identify,
the ducks with racing stripes, not buffleheads,
but what? Behind me I hear a red-winged blackbird,

the buzz of the floating bridge, a plane moving
people above the earth, where someone will complain
about legroom and someone will watch the world

from the viewpoint of a cloud. We perch on a planet
of heartbreak, sometimes minding our own—
I wonder how much time we have left?



Kelli Russell Agodon’s newest book is “Dialogues with Rising Tides,” from Copper Canyon Press: previous books include “Small Knots,” “Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room,” and “Hourglass Museum,” among others.

Kelli is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press, where she works as an editor and book-cover designer, and co-directs Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women.

She lives in a sleepy seaside town in the Pacific Northwest where she is an avid paddleboarder and hiker. Discover more at www.agodon.com