American Life in Poetry: Column 386


A while back, we published a poem about a mockingbird, but just because one poet has written a poem about something, he or she doesn’t hold rights to the subject in perpetuity. Here’s another fine mockingbird poem from Carol V. Davis, who lives in Los Angeles.

Mockingbird II

    How perfectly he has mastered
the car alarm, jangling us from sleep.
    Later his staccato scatters smaller birds
that landed on the wire beside him.
    Perhaps the key to success
is imitation, not originality.
    Once, when the cat slinked up
the orange tree and snatched a hatchling,
    the mockingbird turned on us,
marked us for revenge.
    For two whole weeks he dive bombed
whenever I ventured out the screen door
    lured by his call: first tricked into thinking
the soft coo was a mourning dove courting,
    next drawn by the war cry of a far larger animal.
He swooped from one splintered eave, his mate from the other,
    aiming to peck out my eyes, to wrestle
the baby from my arms, to do God knows what
    with that newborn.

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 ©2008 by Carol V. Davis, from her most recent book of poems, Between Storms, Truman State University Press, 2012. Reprinted by permission of Carol V. Davis and the publisher. Poem first appeared in Permafrost, Vol. 30, Summer 2008. Introduction copyright © 2020 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.