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The Greens, the Birds, the Speech, the Dance, the Silence 
The greens—myriad, viridescent: 
every one of them alive.          I see green. 
It’s elemental.                Magnolias, whose 
stately, heavy, sturdy greens     replaced 
April’s soft white petals on bare branches. 
                All the prairie grasses, competing, 
and beyond, more trees: the oak, ash, and spruce—
evidence. You think.     Of what. Belief means
you are here, in it. 
                                          Being in it is all. 

White daisies punctuate. 
                                          The green, interrupted, 
reminds the eye of its subject.                             For months,
I convalesce and stare rapt out my window. 
                                            Sometimes, I step out: 
                           not even a sidewalk, just a door to
                                                                     the unpaved world. 

A chatbot perches on a wide branch there. 
Lyrical code with deep-time programming, 
                                           its song complies. 
                                           My app confirms 
               the presence of sparrows and finches. 
                              The red-winged blackbirds 
                               have quieted. 
(They screech when the dog nears the nests.) 

The same dog barks on the recording 
for the app. 
                          We filter, 
                           all of us: 
as the app untangles piled wave forms, 
parses the unique songs of specific birds, 
                                          subtracts the dog, 
                                          I do the same. 
                                          And further out, 
sun and wind conspire—my eyes dart 
to the foreground.         Now a bird also darts— 
                             my eye and the bird dart together— 
the wind turns colors over colors. 

With finite eyes I watch a tiny finch 
spend the morning balancing on rasp- 
berry vines, fluttering at the window, 
beating against the glass— 
as if it could get purchase      on the reflection 
                                          of the vines it staggers on. 
Another bird, head cocked, watches me 
walking in figure eights, circling toward 
               the glass,          widening my loops— 
as if I could boost my recovery 
                            in that windowed room 
                            in that dimmed state. 

            So, birds can’t transpose—as in recognize 
            their own pitch-perfect song, heard in a different
            key.      I hear that whales transpose 
                                                                     their own song 
            to a soprano register     to speak 
            to dolphins.      Why does this matter. It does. 

            Pan out—out! For at least a thousand 
                         years, crumbled diatoms and catfish remains 
            of the dusty basin of Lake Mega Chad 
                         have crossed the entire Atlantic 
            to fertilize the phosphorus-poor soil 
                         (drained from the rain) of the Amazon. 

Does what I know point to more than itself. 
I imagine we are beastly bots, our pattern 
of chatter modeled from those before. 
                                         What follows. 
Willow flycatchers, western meadowlarks: 
I am finally specific.                   I am 
chatty today. It is deeply scripted. 
And I, when stirred, 
                            absurdly, must be heard. 
             What do I know.                           Yellow 
element, unpaved words widening.

In that same room of light and entry: 
             my piano. And just now when the theme 
returns for the final time, I begin 
to play louder, faster—               I can’t help it— 
and in my periphery, barn swallows 
             dive in time—a quickening—so many 
             swoop from such great heights, as if 
choreographed.             By whom, I want to ask. 
             By what.             Does the desert care by whom. 
Does the forest care by what.                  It happens, 
             this concert, this earth impacting earth, and 
for a moment, the birds and I are quiet. 

This poem appears in our fall 2023 issue, Conjunctions:81, Numina: The Enchantment Issue.

Jessica Reed’s recent work appears in Denver Quarterly, PANK, Exposition Review, DIAGRAM, Conjunctions, Bellingham Review, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook World, Composed is from Finishing Line Press. She teaches physics and the arts at Butler University.