Cuckoo in the Wrong Habitat—North Seattle (1990s)

“Psych, Cuckoo” the twelve-year-old girl
upstairs chirped, as he closed
the door to laughing street eyes
after coming home from work.
A strange bird: He lived solitary
in the thickets of imagination,
in the dusty willow branches
of squandered time.
His brain began to seethe
with the staccato aria
of a yellow-billed call that knew
the lament of an approaching storm
and the black specks on the face
of the sun overhead.
It wound around his thoughts
like the playing children’s voices,
the engines turning over,
stereos throbbing
in the boom-box alley
next to his window.

Outside his door, two acolytes
of Beavis and Butthead listened
to his telephone conversation
after getting bored one day
with skateboarding down the hall.
He should have known better
than to live here among
these Desert Storm-clad denizens
whose TVs lit up
with professional wrestling,
whose parents turned the dial
to Red, White, and Blue country music,
whose sons swaggered like Kid Rock;
should have known they would realize
from hearing him use “big words”
that he had a library card—
but the rent was cheap.
So, he could only wait
until his wallet fattened
and then fly south with a prescription
for a tricyclic in his beak.

E. D.’s Noonday Poems—Read a Century Later in NYC

The afternoon was growing late
in the gap between the dime-store satin
of the ash-colored drapes
in the tenement room in Brooklyn.

A man there opened a book
to the white noon of the poet’s meadow
before her family house
and read in the lengthening shadows.

He heard the bees buzz in her verse
under the blue helium sky at midday
and the divine harmonies
of orioles on their dazzling way.

All the long-ago prism light
of her meadow poetry repeated
through the Ornette Coleman riffs
the traffic played in the streets.

He thought of her later, veiled
in her room, foreign to the communion
she once had with the singing
grass and air beyond her seclusion.

As his sepia hands turned
the pages exalting the 12 o’clock sun,
the city twilight spilled
like cheap red wine between the curtains.

Closing the book, he listened
to carousing in the street and the el
screeching like a hoot owl to
a stop at ten-minute intervals.