Thirteen ways of looking at an unseen bird

In response to “Learning the Name” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read its name in English, such as crow or Swainson’s thrush.
Read its name in Latin.
Look at a picture of a bird of its species and sex.
Write an equation to model its flocking behaviour.
Add its decaying nest to your collection.
Find its bones among black nightshades in the ruins of a harvested field.
Look at the bars on your window, the iron latch on your door.

Study the tree where you think it hides.
Close your eyes and count the shape of its song.
Transcribe its cry into dots and sticks on lines.
Look at your own ears.

Measure the lips of the day-white moon. Threads of sunlight hanging between blue hills. Your eye in a raindrop. The face of a gnat.

Stand under the tree until it shits on the sphere of your head.

From A coat of ashes.
“Learning the Name” is on p. 121 of Finding my Elegy: New and Selected Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010.

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