By Amy Watkins
An osprey beats the wind with bowed wings,
steady till it drops and shakes in flight.
The wind catches and it rises again.
I watch from the porch where I’ve come early
to stop avoiding our father’s call. Last night,
I turned the ringer off then on then off again,
swiped down to ignore but texted back.
There are two birds in the tree across the street
and a third circling and circling, rising and falling
in the wind from a distant hurricane.
The phone rings. He wants to talk about you.
They say each bird attends to just seven others, and,
in this way, a thousand starlings turn together
like one creature. I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.
Once, you and I climbed the hills outside
Florence, Italy. Our dearest ones climbed with us
and, because we were few and each one loved
by all the others, I thought we made a kind of net
that might hold the breaking world together.
A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurora
borealis, a sheer curtain caught in wind,
twisting, tracing a path through twilight.
A hawk swoops low over the osprey nest.
I think it might land, but it doesn’t. You ask to meet
for coffee. Our father calls, and I don’t answer.
Today’s poem previously appeared in SWWIM and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Amy Watkins grew up in central Florida surrounded by saw palmetto and sugar sand and a big, close-knit, religious family: the kind of upbringing that’s produced generations of southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl, and earned her MFA in writing from Spalding University. She is the author of two chapbooks forthcoming in 2019: Wolf Daughter (Sundress Publications) and Lucky (Bottlecap Press). Follow her on Twitter @amykwatkins.
Contributing Editor’s Note: Amy Watkin’s poem, “Murmuration,” is a coming together of worlds. First, there’s the easy mixture of nature and the modern digital world. She closely watches ospreys, how one “drops and shakes in flight. / The wind catches and it rises again.” and then “two birds in a tree across the street / and a third circling, rising and falling.” These innate animal behaviors echo her own modern-day habits with her cell phone—“I turned the ringer on then off again, / swiped down to ignore but texted back.”
She also employs the world of the sacred and the secular, which she hints at through controlled and purposeful ambiguity in word choice. For instance, Watkins selects the homonym “bowed” for the angle of the osprey’s wings in flight. When she decides to finally take a phone call from her dad, it becomes a holy act when she arrives “early / to stop avoiding our father’s call.” Her level of her control and precision is astonishing when, for a moment, she takes herself out of the poem and cautions the reader “I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.” Of course, this line has just the opposite effect and we focus more intensely on the rich metaphors throughout the poem.
Watkins pays pays off the title of the poem in grand style describing “A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurura / borealis,”—a startling and beautiful image that ties everything gracefully together. “Murmuration” is an emotional and beautifully crafted poem that works on many levels. The poem rewards deeply upon close reading.
Want to read more by and about Amy Watkins?
Red Lion Sq.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry
Contributing Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.
A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:
After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of contributing editors, including the one featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.
Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB