Bird Is the Word

From The Best American Poetry 2017 comes one of those poems that has a line jumping off the page. OK, in honor of its topic, maybe flying off the page works better.

The poem, “Grackle” by Meg Kearney, originally appeared in The Massachusetts Review. Read it and see if you notice the same line I did.


by Meg Kearney

What a grackle is doing perched on the rail
of her baby’s crib, noiselessly twitching its
tail, she doesn’t wonder. The way this baby
gleams he’s bound to catch a grackle’s
eye. Besides, birds have flit in and out
of these baby dreams forever. Sapsucker,
blue jay. Sparrow, kingfisher, titmouse.
She just likes to say grackle, a crack-your-
knuckles, hard-candy word. In the dream,
her baby’s black as a grackle, meaning
when she holds him to the light he shines
purple and blue, a glittery bronze. Silent
and nameless. Sometimes he is a she but
always the dream-baby is hers. That is
the miracle. Her nights of nursery rhymes
and sorrow. Of yellow quilts and song
birds. Enough to break a bow. Enough
to fell a cradle.


I call them “Price-of-Admission” lines. You know. The ones that are so good they alone make a good poem worth the price of admission. In this case, the line I am loving is “She just likes to say grackle, a crack-your- / knuckles, hard-candy word.”

Well, shoot. Now I like to say it, too. Not “grackle,” but “a crack-your-knuckles, hard-candy word.”

Poetry. It never ceases to amaze….