Lucy Bakewell Audubon Takes Her Grandson
on a Late-Night Walk to Find Her Husband
Minniesland, Manhattan, July, 1848
There has not been, nor shall not be
birdsong as beguiling as John James
mocking a mocker in our chokecherry
tree. Most birds, boy, both tame
and wild, are drawn to him as if by
magic, though I spy well his game.
His mind may ail but he is handy
still at palming seeds from his pocket.
Mockers thrive on weed seeds, Willie,
as you do on potatoes. Such thickets
as these are habitations for all sorts
of fliers—chats, thrashers, kinglets,
crows—yet only a mocker will resort
to song beneath the moon’s whey-
faced light. What kind of true report
shall we make for John James’s sake,
child, when he asks why we are out?
Yes, of course, what’s apt: to take
him an oil lantern with nary a pout
at his absence again from the supper
table—his two most fervently devout
followers up and about to buffer
him, at least for one brief hour, from
his own befuddlement. Let us suffer
his load of midnight hubris and shun
nothing he will ask us to hear or see:
bird on the wing, the mocker’s tune
neat and naive, a quixotic spree
of mimicry until he alights, perfectly
pat and plumb, on John James’s knee.
by Myrna Stone, from Luz Bones
Editor’s Note: This beautifully constructed poem is a masterpiece of formal dramatic monologue. The careful enjambment and clean rhymes support the voice of Ms. Audubon.
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