Quills and Feathers


Now the mockingbird,

in an effort to be too much of itself,

mocks more than it can handle,

egret and gull,

heron and warbler and shrike,

its throat encumbered with sound,

until arriving at the char char char

of its own dark mind

it mocks itself,

swelling the gullet,

exploding the lungs,

scattering bone and feather

all the way to the south-bank

current in the river,

where the water, pipeline

to something more than itself,

carries them (each fleck

of white and of grey

at the end of a slanting sun

so conspicuous, in this other flight

so definitively absorbed)

out and down to where the bridge

rides high on the crest of its

shadow before going under.

Mockingbird, Northern

Mimus polyglottos

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While apparently expanding northward (as far as southern Nebraska), the mockingbird is still less familiar to denizens of the northern Great Plains than its close relatives, the Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher. (And so it is one of the best reasons to visit the southern Great Plains, by the way.) The current Nebraska Poet Laureate expresses a good familiarity with it, nonetheless, in a poem that presents the bird's extroverted, egoistical mimic nature well. The notion that, after imitating so many other species' calls, it also vocalizes its "own dark mind" is a fascinating angle, and this self-mocking authentic call is then metaphorically transformed through the rest of the poem: it becomes the bird's very body (and sheer egoism) exploding, the gray and white feathers suffusing the environment, across and down the river, to the horizon and setting sun.

Bibliographical information

Author: Kloefkorn, William (1932-)

Book: Loup River Psalter

Date: 2001

Publisher: Spoon Poetry Press

Project Information

Genre: Poetry