Poem of the Week | April 28, 2009

This week we’re proud to feature“Migratory Patterns” by Jamie Thomas.  The poem is previously unpublished.  Jamie Thomas is finishing a Ph. D. at the University of Houston and his recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Barrow Street, Rattle, Sycamore Review, Verse, Zone 3and elsewhere. He lives in Detroit, Michigan and is currently a Visiting Professor at Ferris State University.

It’s all in there, hopefully, but this duck basically flopped for a week or two in our yard, which was maddening, as he liked to use the pool especially at night. With each passing day, though, I found myself interested in our temporary roommate. The idea of Migration, that we cover the same ground over and over again, that we’re always in the process of returning, has always been fascinating to me-the science and the luck behind it. And as it so often happens, the parallels-we’d just moved back north from Texas when the duck dropped in on us-were spark enough for the poem.

Migratory Patterns

A hat on the bed means bad luck’s coming, so too shattering
the mirror. The shards scatter and fall in the place where you find
yourself. Whether the pain near your great-grandpa’s knee
preceded the rain, a full crop, or birthing cow is no longer known,
though always something on its inevitable way.
I know enough not to open the umbrella indoors, to avoid the murders
of crows gathering. We recognize the vultures circling
when it comes to that.  The sounds and shit following us down
each superstitious street toward the luck we make or makes us.
So what then to make of the duck on my roof?-
this duck who’s been using my pool-Spring imminent-living
in the melt-water ponded on the winter cover. He’s been letting loose,
this quack, hollering and carrying on-apocalyptically loud,
rattling the invisible bars of our cages, ever since he floated down solo,
flew in a week ago when his arms got tired-at all hours of the lonely night
with its ripe air of something always on the verge. Evenings he climbs
to perch near the chimney, watching the skies, and I’ve taken to watching
during my first Spring back north from the south.
Feels like we’ve been unpacking for months.
Southwest over the tops of the darkening homes winks the permanent
red pulse of the radio towers. V’s of geese head toward Canada
speaking in squelches and honks the duck ignores.
Most likely this mallard’s a bachelor, or a widow-and which is worse:
the tragedy of loss or of nothing to have lost?
They mate for life, and this one’s out looking
for something, the way we’re all on sentry for what’s crossing
our horizons. He’s half-waying it in my small plot of the Detroit suburbs,
this square of cyclone that says here I am, despite all our periodic
episodic relocations, part of the things we do
as we navigate the routine-the bulbs are down there
hurling themselves upward through the defrosting exhausted
soil, the waves roll in, the birds return-through the cyclical assault
of the seasons. There are the routes we travel only to return
again to the original beginning. All the analogies apply,
you can force salmon and Freudian to rhyme.
There’s our loss of sleep to a sex-crazed feather duster.
My wife wakes and closes the window. The alarm clock announces the
with its faint, unflinching digital glow-new or known,
each second that descends extended toward each dark next, circling
down to its destination? We ramble back and forth
to find it. There’s the thousand odometered miles,
then the familiar odors, then you can see where you are-first the lake,
then the shore.