Birds in the Bush

by Gerard Donnelly Smith


November 29, 2004   


Sus manos bailan en la hebra como alitas de chincol...
—Victor Jara, Angelita Huenumán (1969)

His hands like birds flurried, but even those could not save him
from the natural causes of his demise, so they say.
They will not release his town or his name
from the steel cabinet the military keeps.
After fifty years, keeping confidential the natural cause,
they will release the file with words conveniently
blotted out with a black marker:

People disappear like birds disappear into clouds
then return to nest again, naturally,
within the anguish and grief of those left waiting.

His face like a bird's, he hunts for the missing,
from village to village cries for amnesty.
By steel tracks Father Octavio Ortiz crushed,
forever searching with his flattened head
for anonymous hands fluttering upon guitars.
He will find them black and blotted
waiting, conveniently in a steel cabinet:

People disappear like birds disappear into trees
then wait on a single branch, naturally,
beneath the weight of anguish and grief, cracking.

Upon fence posts birds sit like awkward ghosts
whose songs, buried by impunity, are silent.
By church bells awoken to unforgiving mornings,
forever they wait for the wings' molting
to exchange transparency for solid facts.
They will find black feathers in steel cabinets,
conveniently shredded by moths and mites:

People disappear like birds into the bush
then, naturally, consume the poison fruit
offered to silence the anguish and the grief.

Birds in steel cages scour over the legal news,
from democracy's bowels themselves to be scoured.
By scourging of the hands their crimes made manifest
forever to be scourged like rats during a plague,
to be the lice-ridden sparrow hunted by the hawks.
We will find them in the beast's black belly,
waiting to be washed clean by their innocence.

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Poetry on Swans

US Elections & Democracy on Swans


Gerard Donnelly Smith on Swans (with bio).

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Published November 29, 2004
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