Flight Patterns

Bashing against the window
the cardinal seems to hunger
for its own transparency,
as though it could move through itself—
each thud before the next amnesiac dive
leaves the eyes a little more stunned,
the heart shadow flattened against the glass.

            *

Every time I see her, my neighbour is thinner,
her beautiful face, pinched and pointed, dark eyes
darting about. She’s becoming one of the birds
she paints. “Their heads are exploding,” she says
and I imagine the canvas swirling,
a fury of oil. Instead her bird is restrained,
its small body a corset
of south sea blue, the ornamental tail
tipped in gold. It’s the composure
that terrifies: tiny brush strokes
like deliberate dips into pain;
she’s formalized loss into a jeweled column
rising where the head used to be,
as if the self must give up its tantrum,
its big open voice, its crow song, hungry and hoarse.

            *

In my writing room
a panic of wings
beating the white walls
like two ragged lungs:
the bird can’t breathe out.

Babo Kamel’s poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Alligator Juniper, the Grolier Poetry Prize, Contemporary Verse 2, among others. She was a winner of the Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Prize, for which her poem was published in Lilith. Originally from Montreal, she now resides in Venice, Florida.

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