Birds

for Hanif Abdurraqib

The day my grandmother fled her homeland, a thousand birds
blackened the sky like night. That’s not true, but I never know what to say

to call you close. In their 1676 volume Ornithologiae,
Francis Willughby and John Ray developed the first classification

of birds. Oh, bird. What will I do with you? Everything
I write, a way of saying: look what I can do

with language. I am trying to tell you: I miss wonder. I wonder
if nostalgia is what we invented to name ourselves species

and mean: we once stood on the same shore. If history were as brackish
as what thrashes in us, how could we possibly worship our reflections? Show me

an animal who has built a god from such roiling waters. In my house,
a stiller mirror. Some say glass is liquid moving very, very slowly. Speed it up

and, there, the ocean, like the one my grandmother watched
the birds dive into—headfirst, all at once. Once, a woman fell in love

with a bird. She spent her whole life removing power lines
and painting glass doors. Stay with me. I just want us to see

what we are crashing into. In 1758, Carl Linneas modified Ornithologiae
to devise the taxonomic system currently in place. Classification

is a country. If the pens of white men had fallen differently, we might
share a homeland. I might be a bird.