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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


by Gretchen Fletcher

From bush to bush
we strain to follow with our eyes
where the guide is pointing out
the red-winged blackbird.

Now he lights on the very top
of a lodge pole pine
and the guide centers him
in the lens of his telescope

to give us a close-up view
of the red patches he wears
like a soldier’s insignia
on the shoulders of his black uniform.

Belligerent, he dares
other birds to go against him.
“The color red is like a threat
to birds,” the guide explains.

“They’re hardwired to fight
when they see it. But the blackbird
can hide his threatening patches.
Each feather is controlled by muscle.

In winter he covers his red feathers
with black ones to conserve energy
he would have wasted on fighting.”
Sometimes feeding is more important than making war.

The bird flits to another bush.
This time we know right where to look.

Gretchen Fletcher leads writing workshops for Florida Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. She was awarded the Grand Prize in San Francisco’s Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Festival, was selected as a finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, was awarded first honorable mention in Canada’s lichen literary journal Serial Poet competition, and was named a Juried Poet at the Houston Poetry Fest. Her poetry and essays appear frequently in literary journals, magazines, and newspapers.