Imagine yourself as a forest

only each tree is a bird

and each bird is called Gladys.


Mergansers, teals, cormorants,

eagles, peregrines, penguins, pelicans—

all Gladys. But Gladys,

that is, the birds

are really trees, remember. Doug fir,

blue spruce, tamarack, sugar maple,

bull pine, lodgepole, black oak—

still Gladys.

And every needle or leaf

is a version of you—

a cackling forest of Gladys-birds,

and the you that is possibly you

wandering the forest.


One version of you drives all night,

Billings to Fargo, with a load of rebar

on a flatbed—another works the late shift

and dreams of the shining river.


Remember those dreams.

They are still you—the you looking

in the mirror, wondering why your father

stares back at you—you the young beauty

pinching the skin of her wrist, then smoothing

the wrinkles back out—the you who knew

how to fly, the you who made movies as a child,

the you racing the trail, small branches cutting at your legs,

the you who keeps us safe, the you who has died,

the you who wakes in darkness,

blurry and cold—the you watching this child,

thinking, “Yes, little darling, little Gladys,

the girl in that picture was me

and this is me, and I am this picture,

and all these birds, as well.”


published in Town Creek Poetry, spring 2013