Wild Turkeys

When I was a June twenty-two,
one week fresh from graduation,
I took a flight to Lubbock
and wore cowboy hats with friends
as young and sweet as grass.

One night we put on skirts
and tall boots and ambled through the halls 
of an old restaurant, bourbon and whiskey 
in glasses, all very kin to cigars 
and mustaches, dark with ranch wood.

The stars would be bright, the moon
uncommonly full in that wide sky,
so we stepped outside, a slight chill
wrapping down our boots and around
our ankles, expecting Texas.

Instead, the screams of a child--
two children? more?--broke the twilight,
and I gaped up--up, for they were in the trees, 
perched and wailing at the coming dark,
pleading in a language I couldn't decipher.

“Peacocks,” a man said, amused, thumb in his pocket.
I know because I stared at him in astonishment.

Pressed pants. No belt buckle. Thin tie.
No cowboy hat. Peacocks in trees, their tail feathers
draped extravagantly over limbs like evening
dresses, stars of blue and green and gold,
mad debutantes, filling out the harmony of oil rigs.

That night I removed my boots
and didn’t check for snakes.

And ten years later, while rocking my child
to sleep in a new home, dusk painting
the acre and a half in tree shadows--
all those Minnesota maples and oaks and pines--
my thoughts of twinkling little stars were interrupted

by hysterical laughter, a long throaty gobble--
two gobbles? maybe more?--and, though startled,
I didn’t need a man in a thin tie to tell me to look up.
Look up. Find the spirits in the trees. Open your windows.
Call back to them in the way you now know how.

PS: Happy Earth Day, all.
Hope the sun is shining where you are.


  1. I've missed your writing, Emily. Who would think such a lovely and introspective poem could be penned about wild turkeys? Not me. But you've written precisely that.

    1. Thanks, Audrey. It's true that their gobbles aren't exactly lovely. It was while quietly cursing their insistent yarbles, actually, that I remembered that night with the peacocks. Curses or no, they fit together, so I guess there's a reason to be thankful for those noisy things.

      Hope you are well!

  2. Good grief, woman. Mary Oliver had better watch out. She's got real competition.

    1. Linda! Thank you. I suppose in some small corner of my mind I was hoping she wouldn't track me down and make me change the title. Although that would be a fine memory too...

      My writing moments are few and far between these days, but -- still there, thank goodness.

  3. Simply amazing! The connection between all aspects of this poem is smooth, the transitions perfect, and imagery beautiful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Bill. Hope you are enjoying spring. :)


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