“Purple Finches” by Laurie Zimmerman

Laurie Zimmerman


Electric, isn’t it, the little purple finches
come to nest in the ugly ornamental arborvitae

in front of my window, how they flicker, work
all day in brilliant heat bringing bits of timothy

and all those gangly, grinning primroses beneath,
taking over the garden I used to tend?

Last night, a constant slap of basketballs
down on the courts, and too hot to cover my head

with my pillow, hug my body’s loneliness with a sheet.
My dog fussed room to room sensing distant thunder

but it never came near us. She wouldn’t lie down,
wouldn’t go outside, I couldn’t give her comfort.

You should learn to weed, get off the couch,
my mother said. I’d been sick for most of the year,

made my old mistake, called for sympathy.
Even the yellow faces of the primroses seemed shamed,

turned away as if it wasn’t the breeze turning them.
And those aren’t purple finches, probably sparrows,

you could get a bird book, I’ve told you for years…
The whatever-creatures leave pieces of long grass

(probably not timothy) sticking horizontally
like sloppy chopsticks from the maybe-not-arborvitae.

That’s why I’m sure they’re still in love—
they fly to the eave, perch together looking at their home

through the staticky heat of afternoon, second by long second.
It’s as if they cannot believe what they have done.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006

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