the museum of americana

a literary review

A Tour of the Archives—Poetry by Katherine Morgan

                            at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute

Perched on a gunmetal cabinet, a Passenger Pigeon
              catches my eye. My guide asks,
                            Would you like to see more bird skins?

Like a salesman displaying his wares,
              he slides open
                            the shorebird drawer

where two Roseate Spoonbills – headless – touch,
              their legs tied in plié position,
                            bent to fit their tomb.

Resting against a spoonbill’s wing,
              a Glossy Ibis lies, feathers
                            shimmer like heat waves

rising at the horizon: Bronze, green, faint rose.
              Saved separately, the predators,
                            no longer terrorists of the skies,

peer from cotton-filled eye sockets,
              A Red-tailed Hawk cocks one wing
                            as if to take flight.

The extinct inhabit their own vault:
              a Carolina Parakeet, green and yellow
                            feathers so fresh

they could still grace a woman’s hat.
              At the back, an Ivory-billed Woodpecker
                            wings bedraggled, beak in shadow

neck twisted. The last bird I saw,
              a Dusky Seaside Sparrow
                            collected on Appledore Island

at the Isles of Shoals, 1877,
              where Celia Thaxter wrote poems,
                            gardened, gathered artists to sketch.

They might have seen this very sparrow
              hopping in Celia’s garden
                            where I, too, have birded

and at the banding station have seen
              the mist nets alive with birds,
                            felt their beating hearts.

~~~
Katherine Morgan has published widely in poetry and non-fiction. Her articles and essays have appeared in English Journal, Women of China, and Chicago History among others. She is a Co-Editor and contributing essayist to Beyond the Notches: Stories of Place in New Hampshire’s North Country (2011), and Writing Process Revisited: Sharing Our Stories (1997). The University of Iowa Press published her book My Ever Dear Daughter, My Own Dear Mother (1996), a collection of 19th century letters. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including Poet’s Showcase, Piscataqua Poems: A Seacoast Anthology, and Fire and Ice: Ecopoetry of California. She has been a writer in residence at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art annually since 2015. She lives and writes in the Seacoast of New Hampshire where she taught High School English.