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Poet's Choice: 'Never-Ending Birds' by David Baker

By David Baker
Sunday, October 11, 2009

My daughter leaned hard to the side in her car seat, stuck her finger to the window and said, "Those are the never-ending birds." She was 5 or 6, and this was years ago. Her mother and I were taking her somewhere now forgotten, and the autumn sky over our village was full of birds on the wing. We could not see the beginning or ending of the massive migration.

My wife is now my ex-wife. Our daughter is a high-school senior. Things turn in the big wheel of the sky and the earth.

Yet the three of us are still here, living in each other's life each day in our village in Ohio. We are still our own kind of family. We are doing just fine.

And today, in early October, in Ohio, the sky is full. The birds flow across the broad blue air. As a few come down for a while, more lift off from the trees and ground.

It's like this: Some poems are close to memoir in their recounting of autobiographical fact. Some are like short stories, fictive and imagined. All the good ones, I believe, whether they are fiction or fact, convince us by their authenticity.

"Never-Ending Birds" happens to be fact, more or less. I hope it is also true.

Never-Ending Birds

That's us pointing to the clouds. Those are clouds

of birds, now we see, one whole cloud of birds.

.

There we are pointing out the car windows.

October. Gray-blue-white olio of birds.

.

Never-ending birds, you called the first time --

years we say it, the three of us, any

.

two of us, one of those just endearments.

Apt clarities. Kiss on the lips of hope.

.

I have another house. Now you have two.

That's us pointing with our delible whorls

.

into the faraway, the trueborn blue-

white unfeathering cloud of another year.

.

Another sheet of their never ending.

There's your mother wetting back your wild curl.

.

I'm your father. That's us three, pointing up.

Dear girl. They will not -- it's we who do -- end.

David Baker's new book of poems is "Never-Ending Birds" (W. W. Norton). He teaches at Denison University and is poetry editor of the Kenyon Review.

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