She has been painting them for weeks now,
some suspended in flight, others nesting in trees
or resting on fences, a red sun setting
on their wings. Each bird ironed flat against the sky,
each painting less realistic than the one before.
She wonders if she can really paint birds in flight
unless she is there to see them lift off, unless
she can see their bodies twist, their tail feathers
like dark gloves. Can she paint such things
if she does not know the difference between
a red-breasted and a yellow-headed blackbird,
the chestnut-capped and the white-collared one?
But she persists, trying to capture what she sees
so clearly in her mind, the common blackbird
she saw in her grandfather’s barn when she was a kid,
the one that remained with her and became
what she pictures whenever she hears the word
bird. She will never, never, never get this right.
Yet every morning she stands at her easel,
the paintbrush a blackbird poised between her fingers.