Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doppler Bird

I don't know much about birds.
I call her the doppler bird:
she begins a pure, liquid whistle,
not a bubble or a flaw in it anywhere,
and then its pitch drops, and drops,
as though she were falling, falling away from you.
Almost the comic sound
given to anvils falling in old cartoons.
But she's not going anywhere.
Right to the end, it's as loud and pure
as ever, and she reminds me
of Grace Slick, finding
somebody to love,
holding the note impossibly,
increasing the volume at the end
till you think her lungs will collapse.

And almost immediately she starts again
high on the cliff, stalked by
an immemorially frustrated coyote:
A sweet high whistle. A flute with a slider.

I hold an oiled foot in both my hands.
Hands fit with feet in dozens of ways:
they are just foreign enough
to be mutually fascinated.
Palm to sole, and fingers between toes,
heels cradled in a basket of fingers,
ankles held in thumb-straps:
everything the same and not the same.

There is a sweet spot on the sole
before the metatarsals knuckle out,
where you can nudge a thumb
as though it had lived there all its life,
and with your other hand, your mortar hand,
you push the foot down on the pestle thumb.

That's where the doppler bird begins to sing,
just there. And every thumbswidth heelward
you go, the note drops, sweet and pure,
rocking lower, flooding your ears.
No hesitation, no vibrato.

Something does collapse, then.
The toast-crusts of the spirit,
the rind of the heart, the table
of the soul's contents. What was
hard and edged softens, what was closed
opens. What happens in that
tiny space of silence? No one knows.
You might guess the doppler bird
is filling its lungs again,
returning to the top of the cliff,
but guesses miss their mark here.
No one knows what pours quietly
into that opened darkness.


The Poet's Lizard said...

This is absolutely breathtaking. You should put together a book of poems on massage. Or touch. Thank you for this poem!

Dale said...

Thanks so much, Luisa!

Kat said...

Oh, oh. I love this.

rbarenblat said...

I like this poem so, so much. How it moves from funny to sweet to poignant. (And I think I might know that very bird, though she won't be singing here until high summer.)

Jayne said...

Jaw dropping beauty! You know, I had to take thumb to sole to find that sweet spot. And the doppler bird did sing. A long and lustrous aria that begs no explanation. Only attention.

Uma said...

Beautiful and from where to where you take us Dale!

lucychili said...

lovely poem
the swing between sound
and sensation