a literary review
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.