posted in: Poem | 0

if i said bluebirds and steller’s jays are not really blue,
that blueness is a trick their feathers are engineered
to reflect, would this mean anything
to you? as if other blueness were a state of being
separate from perception–or is it? if feathers look blue
doesn’t that make the bird blue–or blue enough–or are we
to test blue objectively to make sure it’s real, and, since birds
have been tested and fail, the whole avian kin-dom
may lay no claim to blue? this raises questions
i am not equipped to answer. for example–
my chinese friend who passes as a tribal member isn’t
indian because she passes, so maybe birds
aren’t blue no matter how they are perceived or perceive each other.
or what about that study on race in brazil where white-
identifying people were found to have more african ancestry
than black-identifying people, so maybe feeling blue
is the operative question, but the trouble is we can ask and ask
away and the birds will never tell us. it’s also possible
that being blue in brazil means something different
than being blue in the u.s. or is blueness determined by who’s
asking the question so that i can foist my conception
on birds throughout the world? but if i couldn’t base the question
on my own conception, then i could only ever answer
a fragment of the question, which may be true after all.

and if the categorizers were to decide that blue can no longer
apply to feathers, wouldn’t bluebirds and blue jays
be forced to change the names they don’t know they have,
not to mention great blue herons who don’t look blue
anyway, except when afternoon lights up their ruffed
grey, rendering them too rich and illuminating to settle quietly
under the non-color of granite, rainydays, raccoons,
squirrels, and ash, all too flat to accommodate
the majestic heron who instead was bestowed with the honorary
but unachievable blue designation only to lose it most likely
in very short order? and what about warner brothers’ roadrunner
who’s drawn blue though real roadrunners are brown streaked in black
(save some blue skin near the eye)? could it be that the cartoon
roadrunner, that unpreyable prey, that table-turning phoenix,
is the only truly blue bird, the one real mccoy,
the post hoc archetype that all other “blue” aves
unknowingly aspire to as they fly off into equally unblue skies?


“blue” was first published in Fire on Her Tongue:  An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry.

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