Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Trim a Bird's Wings

I run into people - neighbors, acquaintances - all the time who ask me when I am going away. Or if I've just returned. The truth is, I'm not. I'm back now from Istanbul and Rome, from Canada, and Plum Farm. From the coast of Spain...I am for the foreseeable future HERE. In the heat and humidity and stench of summer in New York. For various reasons I am spending August in the city with a few side trips upstate, Fire Island. I don't want to go to Europe in August anymore and besides it is a good time to work because no one is here and no one wants to be outside anyway. But still...Recently I called Rodrigo, the Brazilian surfer/dog groomer, who taught me how to trim my parrot's wings. Rodrigo grew up around birds. We have an African gray and she submits to this indignation with as much grace and composure as she can muster, but the process leaves me spent. And afterwards she sits on her perch as if she knows that she cannot fly. That she cannot go anywhere. So I wrote this poem about it which essentially is about travel. Or, in this instance, not being able to travel. It would be safe to say that I am identifying with my bird here.


Take a towel
Put it over your bird's head
Be careful; he may bite.
Unfold one wing.
Hold it to the light.
It should be translucent
as glass.
Avoid the blood feathers.
They are young and immature.
Now think of flight.
Imagine yourself,
soaring overhead.
You catch the wind.
The earth is small.
See the tops of trees,
entire lakes.
Doors open;
Pink flowers bloom.
Rest on a sailing ship.
Dry your wings
in the sun.
But for the bird
The process is painless.
Leave two flight feathers
for balance.
Now pick up the scissors
and snip.

Mary Morris


  1. Wow, you've done some great traveling lately.

    But sometimes... just sometimes... it feels good to stay put.