Green Hills Literary Lantern



The Only Thing Left I Know



When I arrive early at the bird sanctuary

parking next to the truck and a Toyota,

two other gray women wander near the entrance,

binoculars slung around their necks.


Directly I go to the exit, push the slatted door

and slip seventy-five percent of the entrance fee

into the admission box, pass by the empty office

and enter the din of geese and swans.


Migratory ducks are too far to the center

of the lake for me to identify with bare eyes.

Buffleheads, I think I see buffleheads.

And in the caged displays, northern bobwhites


cheeping softly, belying their name, beautiful

plump bodies I would gladly cup in my hands.

Uphill back to the exit door, to the question


Is it open yet? I explain

what I could have told them earlier.

I knew they were living by the clock,

me smug with the secret of being an early bird.


But they thanked me and headed for the door,

species’ names on the tips of their tongues

while I wrapped my wings tight across my chest.



Joanne Lowery’s poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including Birmingham Poetry Review, Rattle, Slant, Cottonwood, and Poetry East. Her most recent collection is the chapbook Scything published by FutureCycle Press. She lives in Michigan.