Zebra Finch at Petco

Karen Holmberg Click to

Karen Holmberg’s second book of poems, Axis Mundi, won the John Ciardi Prize and will be published in the fall of 2012 by BkMk Press. Her writing has appeard in Southern Poetry Review, West Branch, Cave Wall, Black Warrior Review, and Cimarron Review. She teaches in the MFA program at Oregon State University.

Holmberg Zebra Finch at Petco

The male tweezes a bald millet stalk
off a sahara of graveled paper.

The pert watch movements of his head
ignite a ember on each cheek, buff bright

the beak’s rose hip hue. His elderberry eye
subjects this meter cubed of universe

to further scrutiny. The struggles of
a downy filament attract him.

With these two finds he alights, caresses
the injection-molded branch. But there is

no flaw to catch on, no way to make a start.
A problem he sets aside for the moment,

pinning it down with his foot. In the dusky
corner his mate dangles off brass wires,

mobile as a chandelier earring.
Extending her wing, she makes him

more to find, fussing
a small snow from the hot and pearly hollow.


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