As the dates show, this is an older poem I put away because it felt not quite finished. Five years later, it came out again after a discussion about the phenomenon of colors changing in shifting light; it needed some word changes, mostly for sound and flow. It is a Shakespearean sonnet, and was started from a prompt to write a poem about a color. I started with blue, but true to its subject matter, it actually turned out to be about brown.
The main incident recalled here happened, and left a strong enough impression on me that I recall clearly to this day burying that bird. Maybe it was the start of my love affair with corvids, of which the blue jay is one.
The first time I touched the dead
I was playing outside, eight years old or maybe nine.
The jay’s neck was broken, a mock-alert twist to his head.
I buried him under a lilac bush and then he was mine.
But first I plucked a feather, raised it to the sun,
Studied it with a puzzled frown,
Its vivid sapphires all faded to dun:
Blue jays are secretly brown.
Refraction, on reflection, is how all finery is made.
Butterfly wings, The Wizard of Oz, traffic lights —
All illusions in hues and tints that hard light will fade.
I still clutch at what defies washing out, at what fights.
Every week I scatter black-oil seed for the jays,
And relish their greedy, garrulous, gabby ways.
(2011, rev. 2016)