The Little Review
Making No Compromises With the Public Taste
Poem for Monday and Great Falls Wildlife 
Monday, 2nd August 2010 12:24 am

Cardinal Virtue
By Nicky Beer

At first, I can't name the bird falling deliberately
from the tree's high crooks: a grey flash, tipped with carmine.
Lit on a fencepost, its wings smolder.
It might smell of ginger.
Bird, your life would terrify me.
Bones full of air, belly full of hunger,
the underbrush dense with murders.
Death is a twist, a pinfeather lost,
a stumble over a slowing pebble. This is not a life
of flight, but flight from. Perhaps you don't suppose
that there's any other way, which is itself
a kind of mercy. Perhaps you don't suppose.

Your heart's the size of a small clod and,
so I've heard, egg-shaped. I learned
to measure my own by the scale of my fist,
and my height from the distance
between the forefingers at the ends of my spread arms.
Physical logic is contrast,
ratio, degree. We know desire
by the scarcest shades on our skin:
brief flushes, bitten lips.
How could we sort anything at all
without rarity? There are acres more night
than moon, hours more sleep than dream.

Bird, when you are half-alive
in the jaws of our cats, a yellow ribbon
of innards dragging on the dirt,
remember that we dreamed our radiant dead
would become more like you,
as though the progeny of some impossible
lust between one of ours and one of yours.
Incomprehensible thing, drenched in the color
of something we call joy,
stuffed with something that we call song,
you are always first


We had a pretty low key Sunday since we weren't sure what the weather was planning. After lunch (grilled cheese with fake bacon), we went to Great Falls, where were were expecting the Potomac River to be high after the storms of last week; to our surprise, the C&O Canal was pretty high, even where a 100-year-old oak had come down during the storm and collapsed over the wall of a canal lock, but the river was quite low, so much that we could see the drains the park service put around Olmsted Island to protect it from flooding. We saw a snake, a toad, three skinks, a heron, a turtle, several geese, some buterflies, a few spiders, and many dragonflies, and we left before it started to rain.


We stopped at the Bethesda Co-op on the way home for Lughnasadh necessities like fresh bread, corn, potatoes, and wine, then had loaded baked potatoes with the rest for dinner before Adam went with a friend's family to see Inception. The rest of us watched an older corporate espionage thriller, Duplicity, which has very good acting, good chemistry between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, lots of entertaining locations, and a hopelessly convoluted, back-and-forth-in-time plot that requires way, way too much explanation at the end, which puts a damper on the fun but doesn't really ruin the movie. I forgave a lot because I like that it's a product to appeal to male vanity that's at the heart of the scam; so often movies about corporate evils focus on devils wearing Prada and the women who dress like them.
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