Featured Poet: Shelley Girdner, Dover
Shelley Girdner is a writer and teacher who's lived in the Seacoast of New Hampshire for the past ten years. She teaches at the University of New Hampshire and also offers workshops through the Writing Center at the Dover Adult Learning Center. Her poems have been featured in The Mid-American Review and the Indiana Review, among other online and print publications.
In late May and June of this year, I watched a fierce blue jay chase after robins and oblivious pigeons. As I watched, I knew I was writing, though some underlying meaning remained hidden from me. I tried to coax it out: I wrote this as a prose poem; I rewrote it, removing the first person entirely; for a time, squirrels were involved. Then I took a day trip to Boston to watch in awe as my brother defended his dissertation in Religious Studies at BU. As he spoke, my poem came rushing back to me and suddenly I understood what had been lingering beneath my conscious understanding of the scene. This is why I love poetry, because so often when I have found the end of my imagination and comprehension, the world rears up and shows me a way.
For a few weeks, a blue jay boarded here
in the shag bark hickory, magnificent
even among the magificent
of its species, large and wildly chevroned
blue and white and black. It attacked
any bird, any cat, bumbling human,
to protect its partner open beaked and on the nest.
The male and female jay are hard to tell apart
harder after the eggs have cracked, when
for a time, both parents feed the hatchlings
with the intensity of medics performing cpr,
hunting and shuttling back with the rhythm
of chest compressions. A part of me rises up:
Why do I hate the jays?
For a few weeks, the jays live so penitently
for one another and then nothing, that devotion
to a hunger outside their own, erased.
The parents fly off when the fledglings do,
slipping cleanly from the clutch.
If a parent jay were to meet its offspring later
in the wild, it might never know, might give chase
with that kind of dive-bomb anger I watched it train
on every other creature in protection
of the ones it made.
The Koran says everything is perishing
but God's face. I was thinking something else:
that love would last; my brood, my stab
at permenance. I found the blue jays' nest
blown free-- a fleeting center, empty thatch,
a clump of hair pulled from a brush,
as dead as that.
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