Bluejays hang around our street & the backyard. They make the first raucous sounds every morning. Once, though, as I was sitting out under the little dogwood tree, a bluejay a few feet over my head began doing something I'd never heard before - yodeling quietly, improvising, like a hopped-up mockingbird. The poem which became Stubborn Grew was greatly influenced in its development by that particular bird. I knew, if I was going to make an "epic", I had to open up. To let go - be direct, be loud. I had to squawk. & change it up. This may sound obvious : but it wasn't easy for me. The bluejay led the way.
from Once in Providence
I sat in the backyard, in the May sunlight,
in a whiskey haze, reading Ariosto;
there was a bluejay in a nearby pussy willow
singing sotto voce scat with a pure delight.
I've never heard a bluejay sing like that –
like a manic soloing mockingbird
but softly, practicing – almost unheard,
just overheard – hilarious arpeggios (b-flat).
That bluejay was a sort of humanist,
sowing his wild notes when he gets away
from neighborhood policing – jay, jay, jay!
and nay, nay, nay! all day (an airborne pugilist).
Maybe that bluejay – with the thick black
creases around his eyes – etched by reading
Time, and worrying about the times – seeing
too much, too little – maybe he was that oblique
son of Ferrara himself, come to take charge
of his only reader in Providence this year!
and burble along with his blessed disio,
dear bambino-talk. . . bird-humanist, at large. . .
Before he submerges (signed, untraced)
back into the ghost-world – into the maelstrom,
like those robins, back where he came from.
It's right that this clear crowing be effaced –
it's just. Dark summer thunderclouds draw near.
Epics of mockery will mimic their surrender;
Orpheus, another daunting barrator, goes under,
breaking the code (with his broken-hearted mirror).