W I N N I N G P O E M F O R 2 0 0 5
One hot, tropical afternoonm a u r e e n t o l m a n f l a n n e r y
the birdman walks to the shed
where his wares are singing jungle music
in hand-made bamboo cages
built to stack, one upon another,
from floor to cielo.
With palsied fingers
he fumbles to unlatch each diminutive door
and stands erect as his bent spine allows
while tiny gems of quetzal-blue,
emerald, and ruby hover above him,
twittering instructions for flight.
All birds, once released,
perch on his shoulders and arms,
sink needle-talons into the loose weave
of his shabby muslin shirt,
and flap fluorescent rainbows
of synchronized wings
lifting him above the lean-to
where they once confined each other.
Wind plays the Andean flutes
of his airy bones,
and his slack skin flaps
like prayer flags in a gentle breeze.
Young men working in nearby fields
glance up to see him
coloring the clouds with his ascent.
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