My Poems, by William L. Scurrah

Verba Concepta

I saw a bird with no common name,

which is perhaps why no one else saw the little black bird

that day in the canyon, despite the many tourists

pointing at sights with pamphlets in their hands,

snapping themselves against cactus and mesquite.

It is impossible to see that which does not exist.

According to the story in Genesis,

as God formed every kind of animal,

he brought them before Adam to be named,

making him conspire in their Creation.

Yet there are more species still unknown than known,

which despite having no names exist on their own.

Mourning dove and mockingbird

require no description, but phainopepla nitens does—

it is black, and lustrous as night,

except for a white patch on each wing

which it displays in flight, and a crest like a cardinal,

which it does not otherwise resemble.

(Line two changed on October 30, 2011.)

The Visitor

Reading a book, a cup of coffee

cooling on the table—

a low buzz enters through an open window:

Fat and black, it hovers and turns,

surveying this strange enclosure and

the creatures it contains,

a primate and a quadruped, and then,

curious no longer or perhaps alarmed at

what it sees, slowly reverses

into the bright and empty air.

Winter Camp

Lying in the snow at night,

too far from any city’s glow

to mute the multitude of stars,

we cannot name the constellations;

we know our gods don’t sign in comets,

so we play a childish game of

“What does that cluster most resemble?”

Yet could the ancients find in them

a way to see in all that darkness

where the sons of men should go.

After Plutarch

When flies land on a mirror,

they cannot get a grip;

novice skaters, they carom

until they meet a crackled patch:

tripped flat, the world slips

breathless into place.


Imagine the dread Narcissus’

shadow must have felt when

he realized he was a picture in

a mirrored plane of water which

at any moment any stray drop of

rain or bird waste might fracture into

a myriad of random pixels—or

even a sudden heartsick sigh:

would he not have wondered in

those few seconds before

the turbulence settled again into

placidity, what it was

he was?


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