There are people who spend this pink hour of dawn walking the perimeters of
skyscrapers in Houston, never looking up, gathering birds that have crashed against
the great walls of mirrored windows, bewildered by all this broken sky and endless
squares of cloud. And there is a Texas man who crosses to Matamoros every
morning, stacks of flyers on the cracked seat beside him: La has visto? Missing seven
years. They are never coming back, the girl, the years, they are never coming back,
the flocks that once darkened the plain wide skies like purple clouds, but there are
goldfinch, and warblers, and martins tucked in every tree, nature’s secret, until this
desperate hallelujah at the orange edge of dawn. Some of the birds are dead and some
will die on folded towels in boxes tucked beneath desks or in car trunks, old
women’s tears wetting the broken beaks, the perfect feathers, but a few will be
released to wing again into the treacherous sky. Now the wayward daughter dances
for a slab-faced man whose fists bristle with folded dollars, or she washes laundry
for beans and oranges, or she has lain at the bottom of a rocky ravine since the
morning of the slammed door, since her father’s words were spoken; that can’t be
undone. But here a scarlet‐throated bird is cupped in a man’s rough palm, a thick
finger strokes its bright breast, and in response, a trembling.
* * *
“Tanager” first appeared in Yemassee, where it was awarded the Pocataligo Poetry Prize by Nikky Finney in 2015. It was selected for the Mark Fischer Prize by Chris Ransick and the editors of Talking Gourds (Telluride Institute) in 2017.
A teacher and former journalist, Anna Scotti was accepted to the AULA MFA program as a fiction writer, but discovered a passion for poetry under the tutelage of Frank Gaspar, Alma Luz Villanueva, Chris Abani, Richard Garcia, and other mentors. Scotti’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Fungi, Chautauqua, The New Guard Literary Review, and Tupelo Quarterly, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. Scotti is delighted to make her debut in Lunch Ticket with this poem. www.annakscotti.com.