The Madness of Birds

When I left the mountains,

there was a space in the pit of my belly

that thought it couldn’t be filled

with things like the things at my back:

the mule deer in the falcate sun,

sideways on a morning hill;

footprints of an elk and her calf

pressing into a natural spring

before the soft earth was hardened;

the nighttime yelp of coyotes and rabbits—

not always a genial sound

but a reminder of the wild world at work.


Then down from the mountain the prairie spoke:

Dear, sweet woman,

her voice that rose with lavender,

you are mistaken.


And then she gave to me the madness of birds

—all of them—

they dart before the afternoon rains, and they are pendulums through

the sky when monsoons bounce above the ground.

They spin their heads with brightness and warbling and unpeel the skin of

nature forgotten.

She gave me the Jays in the willows and the Killdeer along lakes and rivers—

the Killdeer–

who jump through irrigation ditches with pecking, poking beaks; too quick on

the shell of a Snapping Turtle and too fast along a blade of grass to make it


She gave me the Lark Bunting’s plateaued nest and unspoiled white down; the

prairie notes of a Red-winged blackbird.

She gave me their wings—brilliant colonies and communities of airborne

partners unending and saturating that same space in my belly;

mocking my incertitude

through their flight.


  1. Such amazing pictures in my mind from your words…


    1. Karen Hanson Percy July 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Thank you for reading–some amazing bird-life in your neck of the woods!


  2. I live in Arkansas now after leaving Wyoming, the home of my heart. If it were not for the morning birds allowing me to begin my day with them, I don’t think that I would have survived here for close to 7 years. Wyoming begs me away from this place, the place of my birth and childhood that abandoned me in my youth. I will get a brief week in Wapiti this summer. The first nights stars are already dancing through my head each day. Thank you for your well spoken words of life.


    1. Karen Hanson Percy July 9, 2016 at 6:13 am

      Yes! A lot for which to thank the morning birds. I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for your kind words.


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