An English woman I’ve never met
calls to read me her new poem
about the little Texas junco bird
whose cry sounded to the early settlers
like the words, no hope, no hope.

The bird knows what it has taken her
half a lifetime to learn,
she says, now that her body
is covered with sores
and she can no longer walk.

She needs me to go to the yard
and listen to the desolate plea
of a bird I’ve never seen,
a song I’ve never heard: hope
is no longer a thing with feathers.

Night pauses with its ear cocked:
Listen to the cry of the female,
she calls, who has drunk herself
into a stupor and trills in high C
the words, no hope, no hope.