I remember birdsong,
the awakening of a summer’s day
when trees came alive
with gossip and wings.
Yellow finches darted from elm to elm
like shooting stars. And in the evening,
sparrows gathered on the pavement,
whole flocks seeking seeds and chattering.
We thought they were a nuisance.
In spring, the robins dove from nests
above the lintel, little warplanes
maneuvering between the hidden blue eggs
and our ducking heads.
We thought starlings’ iridescence ugly.
We’d clap our hands to disperse
their dark cloud that hung in the maple
like a cackling plague.
Now they are all the stuff of legend,
bedtime stories for grandchildren
who will never know the song
of a red-wing blackbird sitting on a fence,
or the cardinal’s call to his beloved
on the opposite roof, waiting.
Giving His Body to Science
Today he left the funeral of a friend early,
to avoid further prayers
by the monotone minister
to beat the traffic home
on the expressway
We resume our little lives
in the kitchen we talk over lunch
He says he wants no ceremony
when the time comes no memorial.
My father wanted no service
You gave the eulogy for your mother
instead, he says, give my body to science. My parents’ ashes are in a river.
Your family has no headstones.
Have you filled out the forms?
We emerge as from the cinema,
by laughing medical students
like mulch in the garden of death
A murder of crows
rustles in the hedge
the blob of liver
like a swollen tulip,
The trees answer
with pink blossoms
I will wear black
intestines like sweet potato vines,
curling down to the unnamable
bowels, and eyes like the glossy marbles
he played with as a child in England.
Leaves retreat red and gold
to earth before the snow
hairless chest sliced
with the appropriate cleaver
a gleaming map of inner streets
Each day is a gift
I will give this one back
and the heart a rhythmed love
a hidden valentine
An ocean swells deep blue
swallows New York
And what will they do I will take pills to sleep
I will wake to a vacant world
with the hands no longer holding a book,
the fingers no longer jotting sudokus,
The Zodiac turns above us
spinning crabs, twins, a lion
the arms empty of embrace,
a brain like mounded cabbage?
I will clean out the basement,
move to a rental, not knowing where
As a child, I knew
that my Jersey neighbors
would eventually flock to Jewish enclaves
for elderly widows who loved
the heat and the beach
in their sunhats and bling,
still able to read best-sellers
under large umbrellas in the sand,
still with an eye for a gentleman
playing golf in a neighboring resort.
Later in life, I read Zora.
It’s not all warm seas and margaritas.
A string of husbands, a life always
moving between sweat, love,
and danger, ending in a storm
flooding the Everglades.
Today Lake Okeechobee runs
the color of coffee, with algae
a toxic garden floating on top.
Even Miami is disappearing
as the world heats up.
A glacier melting in Alaska
sends a vanishing shoreline
to Florida, and on the way,
lights wildfires in California.
And so we burn, we drown,
we wave goodbye, eyes fixed
on stars and alligators,
on the last page of Hemingway,
on a swamp that teems
with life and death. Dear Florida,
I never loved you anyway.
Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such diverse journals as Istanbul Literary Review, Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, Agenda, and Journal of Italian Translation. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, her most recent book of poems is EDGES.