The Private Version

by Brian Baumgart

We first become birds by watching the sky
and connecting the names of clouds
together with the lightest string:
you imagine it as veins and arteries running
with the crystalized sugar of maple
syruping splashed across teeth like
a sweet mask. We learn to breathe
through the thickness, witnessing
drowning by touching our wings to lips
and crying, or cawing, or whispering
a human tweet—and here, sky-wise, we
are naked under the high sun with flesh
spending days swimming in the blue. We
are eroding the air with our pretense of feathers,
where we wear false eyes, looking inside.

Brian Baumgart is the author of Rules for Loving Right (Sweet, 2017), and his writing has appeared in a number of journals, including South Dakota Review, Big Muddy, Spillway, Whale Road Review, and Signal Mountain Review, among others, as well as in the anthology Rewilding: Poems for the Environment. Recent poems have been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He’s currently working on a novel, a play, two collections of poetry, and a collection of personal essays. He is teaches writing at North Hennepin Community College, near Minneapolis, and was 2018 Artist-in-Residence at University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecological Science Reserve. Brian’s home includes one cat who sounds like the roadrunner (from the cartoon), one cat who has learned to howl like a dog (not a cartoon, but quite animated), and one dog who will only eat her food if the howler eats with her. There are multiple humans in his family, as well. For more:

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