Jerome L. McElroy

St. Mary's College

Notre Dame, IN 46556

(219)284-4488 22 lines


Backyard Oriole*

How ambitious does a poem have to be?

Can't we just enjoy a tree

or must it deconstruct the spheres

in meter Milton would admire?

Is an epic necessary when

a backyard oriole visits every April?


Shy to my shadow through the window,

he scans the grass for seed debris

around the roots of the silver maple,

pecking the earth in dactylic couplets

then rustles to the brush and back

careful the alliteration's not monotonous.


He circles the studio beneath the box elders

unmindful of the inside artist working wings

toward heaven. When this stanza's done

his scarlet torso sweeps to the skin

of the sycamore with rhyming wing bars

measuring anapests in flight.


In three days he's gone while I lament

the rare lost prosody in air

and savor what flame remains, what song

still rings ears awake until next spring.


Jerome L. McElroy


*Accepted in Pegasus (late 1998).