“Two Weeks with Pay” by Ron Koertge

Ron Koertge


Isn’t there always a bird in the airport?
Here’s one who got by without a passport,

surprising the uniformed TSA folks,
and setting off a lazy series of jokes

about flying for free. This sparrow
navigates the crowded, narrow

lanes that lead to the waiting 747s
about to penetrate the local heavens.

We wait and watch and read
and listen to the nearby child plead

with her parents to do something
about the poor bird reappearing

now here now there but clearly
scared and lost and probably

an orphan! The parents say, “Hmmm.”
So the child, flushed and overcome,

takes matters into her own hands.
Breathing hard, she stands and scans

the sun-shot, glassy cage we’re in.
She’s off, nearly as fast as her twin—

the bird in question. At first it’s cute:
a kind of game called LAX Pursuit:

she dodging totes and roller bags,
the other swapping zigs for zags.

And then the bird careens into
a wall resembling something blue

out there. The child’s scream
shatters each vacation dream

and brings the dreamers to their
feet to stand and mostly stare.

The cops show up. They close
around the scene, blue shadows

who whisk the child away.
The parents tag along in disarray.

Someone with a handkerchief
disposes of the lost and brief-

lived bird. Magazines reopen,
someone checks her suntan lotion.

The dreams return: a turquoise sky,
drinks that stun, fish that fly.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

[download audio]


Ron Koertge: “I was writing poems that were so easy-going they could have been prose. When that happens, I fall back to fixed forms and fool around with sestinas and villanelles and things like that for a while. The incident in the poem—a bird more or less trapped in an airport waiting area—made me want to be trapped in a very fixed form, so couplets stepped up. Some of the rhymes fell into place. With others I’d look for a likely word then a less likely but more interesting one would volunteer. Sometimes things just work out.” (web)

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