This morning a rose-breasted grosbeak perched at the birdfeeder
arresting the light, cracking sunflower seeds in his outsized beak.
I want to describe him to you, for hours now have been trying
to tell you about blush fading down his front, how his tail feathers
parted in a V, the way his passerine feet gripped both forwards
and backwards, to make you see the seed husks fragmenting,
chaffing in the early wind, but I am trying to love him with language
which distorts his truth. Histories migrate through the cracks
with the German prefix groß. The species’ name singles out the male
with his vivid markings, ignoring the female’s drab variegations.
Choose crimson instead of rose and connotations shift between romance
and violence. Synonyms split his totality. Our gaze drifts toward the named
breast and beak. But I tell you this: he perched there for minutes
in his birdness, the fullness of being, moving between sudden movement
and just as sudden stillness. And though we cannot love this world
in its wholeness, we must try our best to translate well,
even as the rose-breasted grosbeak cocks his head and lights off,
the suddenness of flight only one more of his inexpressible words.
MATTHEW LANDRUM is the author of Berlin Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press) and translator of the forthcoming collection Are there Copper Pipes in Heaven, poems from the Faroese of Katrin Ottarsdóttir (The Operating System). He lives in Detroit where he teaches at a private high school for students on the autism spectrum.