The Poetry of
Jack Scott

Birds in Morning Mazatlán

Colors set in silence,
gems of sound
struck by master jeweler
in crystal air
is birdsong.
Listen at your peril
this music flies into your mind
through an open door or window
and gets stuck there fluttering,
an echo of itself lingering
until some magic trick of time
spirits it away
to your quieted relief.
So it is in driving
through bird embedded countryside,
of airborne multitudes
winking in and out of sound and sight.

On we drove through both the land
and our imagination
to the grotto market at the sea
where everything not sold and owned
was for sale or, for enough, for sale again
Three prices for each object offered,
dopplered from each seller’s mouth,
the first as you approach,
another while you’re there,
the last addressed to your retreat.
Ahead, at least three sellers hovering,
behind, three hagglers haggling.

I always thought that birds were free,
but here were birds that weren’t:
blackbirds, finches, sparrows,
a mockingbird, cardinals, and a robin
parrots, parakeets, macaws and toucans
everywhere imprisoned in all kinds of cages:
penitentiaries of 2x4s and hardware cloth
overkill for these tiny prisoners,
woven reed and bamboo cells,
ornate metallic birdcages.
Such a clamor, what cacophony;
every instrument in that orchestra
playing from a different score.

Are these songbirds flying meat
to eat, or pets for milady’s parlor
for their music and their color?
Or, as I’d like to think romantically,
to be given as a gift,
a token of affection like flowers
prised from chill, thin air
of mountainside
that wilt and die and rot
between cantaloupe and carrot,
not a gift to keep or eat.

One purpose of the bird
according to its catchers
is to be caged and marketed.
My purpose is to buy it
and place it in your hands,
whereupon you loose it
in simple ceremony,
and feeling something like the bird,
free it to its native state
before incarceration.

L61 ®Copyright 1974 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.