Asks my student from Bosnia, what
is the name of those birds I hear
every morning singing in the dark?
I don't know, so I look it up.
The robin, the starling, the mockingbird.
Looking for mates, marking out space,
even in the darkness. Often from
the highest point it can find. Although
it might also be a fence full of sparrows
chattering like a waterfall among the diamond
shaped spaces of the chain link fences
everywhere around us or the wires running
from house to house with distractions.
One bird he says sounds “like the same
as bullets whispering past your ear.”
Another is saying Come Here, come here,
come here. That's a cardinal, I think.
“The red bird? The blood-red bird?”
Jeff Oaks' newest chapbook, Mistakes with Strangers, will be published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2014. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships, Jeff has published poems in a number of literary magazines, most recently in Fourth River, Prairie Schooner, Rhino, Field, and Mead. His essays have appeared in At Length, My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them, and in Creative Nonfiction. He teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.