little brown bird
I pick the treadmill in front of the window
because once, a year and a half ago,
I saw a deer on the lawn outside the gym.
Today, I see a bird.
Today, I see a plain, little brown bird.
Today, I see a plain little brown bird
flying into the wind like a curvy arrow
or a flying Porsche.
She’s right in front of me
while I run on the treadmill.
Both of us work without moving.
She beats her wings exactly as hard as the wind blows.
Little brown bird!
Yes, bitch, yes!
Fly, you bad mother fucker!
I crank up my speed past the point of sustainability
to the place where it feels dangerous
and great and strange, to stretch my legs.
Yes, bitch, yes.
Run, you bad mother fucker!
Like the hours I spend running on an infinite track in a single room,
like the entire days I spent holding a sleeping baby,
like the things I write that are made up of words
that will join millions of other words other people have written,
some of those words exactly the same,
the gusts that punish my little brown bird look like nothing.
The wind looks like nothing so stop watching and step into it.
That thing you can’t see in the little brown bird,
the little mother, the little runner,
the little voice that almost didn’t speak,
is that single second’s victory,
in line with every second before
and every second to come:
and this one,
keep counting. Count them all.
You can’t see, can only feel her rolling triumph
against a force that doesn’t see her,
that would push her into freefall
if she ever, ever stopped.
You might look at the stubborn little brown bird and ask,
“What’s the point?”
What you’re really saying is,
“That stupid bird will never change the wind.”
Birds don’t fly to change the wind.
Little brown bird was born for this.
Little brown bird is hungry.
Little brown bird is fierce.
I step off the treadmill changed;
I am no longer trying to be smaller.
I’m trying to be stronger.
I lay the baby down and I’m changed;
I seeded a new heart.
I write down what I think today and I’m changed.
(Someday I’ll no longer be visiting when I come to this place
where I don’t need to defend my right to speak like a cover charge.
I hate paying for the right to breathe the air.
Someday I’ll put my things in the drawers there.
Every time I stay a little longer.)
Yes bitch yes;
fly, you bad motherfucker;
run, you tough bitch;
love, you fearless, reckless mother;
speak, little creature;
you are the point.
I run fast for a long time
and watch that bad bitch brown bird.
Bit by bit she inches into the wind,
hungry, fierce, a curvy arrow
built to slice through invisible, impossible air.
Her victories accumulate,
This tiny, mighty thing that could have stayed in bed this morning.
She never, not even for a second,
wondered if her flight had a point.
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