Tony Tost


from “Dead Birds : A Meditation”

It is because the children of the empire 
are not suckled by the wolf 
that they are conquered and displaced 
by the children of the northern forests 
who are adept in mathematics from perpetual practice 
& prefer either flocks of relaying flocks 
or those infamous contraptions 
like Icarus’ : the poem becomes a way 
of violating the laws, of cupping past 
& present contiguously in the hand 
(a place not on any map). Wandering means 
only one more step O sweet field far ahead 
I hear your birds : omens 
which even now fly out of my hand


Animals are defined less 
by the abstract notions of genus and species 
than by a capacity for being affected 
by the excitations to which they react 
within the limits of their capability 
the silky warble runs in the yellow throat 
birds in hillside abide
orioles call beyond the blind as the moon 
sinks – 500 miles – into dawn 
on a trotting horse in dead winter 
I trembled at the sight 
of guardians holding the light 
of a hundred years ago


Vegetation occurs only as an explanatory accessory
the reed is introduced to mark the course of the river
or the tree to mark the covert of the wild beast
or the ambush of the enemy. It is often said of a man 
that his work is autobiographical in spite of every 
subterfuge. Many of the birds that spend their summers 
in Hartford spend their winters in Caracas
birds sway, rashes migrate across the surface
the old idea of ‘talent’ must of course be abandoned 
& the legend of the creative ‘fecundity’ of 
the artist who lays three eggs today, one tomorrow
& none on Sunday. On the small and remote islands 
of Darwin & Wolf ground finches alight on the backs 
of large seabirds of the genus Sula & peck at the feather roots 
on the wings & tail, drinking the blood that flows out
the vampire finches also crack open the eggs of seabirds 
by pushing them against rocks. On these rejectamenta 
the young are born



Tony Tost is the author of Invisible Bride (LSU Press 2004). Recent work can be found in VerseThe HatLITEffing Magazine and Typo.