A Poem without a Single Bird in It

by nicolecallihan

Jack Gilbert has this great poem, and in it there is not a single bird–no red-winged blackbird or cockatiel, no gray-cheek parakeet or dodo, not even the flap of a sparrow’s wing.

I tell you this because it seems remarkable that this is my ninth entry and I have yet to mention my mother. And so, by way of introduction, I’ll tell you a story. As a child, I rode shotgun with my mother all over the south. We’d drive and drive for days and days looking for the next place to hang our hats. If Joe was with us, maybe he got shotgun, and the three of us armed with nothing but cans of warm diet soda were ready to take the world on.

After we’d been on the road a while, mom would decide it was time to take a nap. It was our job, she told us, to tell her if there were any curves ahead or if she got to close to another car. Joe and I would yelp and plea. Mom, wake up. Please wake up. This went on for years. Even after we realized that she was closing only one eye we were still delighted and terrified every time she did it. What if we killed someone? What if we killed ourselves?

So this morning–which also happens to be the first time this year that I’ve seen a red robin–I told Cody I want a baby. Badly. I badly want a baby. Yes, after the wedding (!), but I want, years from now, someone to ride shotgun and tell me when the curves are coming, someone to delight and terrify, someone–when we feel like we can’t make it another mile–to run into the 7-11 and grab us a couple of fresh Diet Cokes.