American Life in Poetry: Column 340


I like birds, and poems about birds, and several years ago I co-edited an anthology of bird poems called The Poets Guide to the Birds. I wish Judith Harris had written this lovely description of a mockingbird in time for us to include it, but it’s brand new. Harris lives in Washington, D.C.


I can hear him,
now, even in darkness,
a trickster under the moon,
bristling his feathers,
sounding as merry
as a man whistling in a straw hat,
or a squeaky gate
to the playground, left ajar
or the jingling of a star,
having wandered too far
from the pasture.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2010 by Judith Harris, whose most recent book of poetry is The Bad Secret, Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Poem reprinted from Narrative, Summer, 2011, by permission of Judith Harris.  Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.