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They Called Her Birdie

May. 27, 2013
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To be in Birdie Banks’s classroom

was to assemble on the branches

of a willow tree in the season

of birds.  Her 4th graders added and

subtracted birds, studied the map

by migrations, read the birds' lives and

learned more words than you'd think

would fit in our mouths.  Before dawn

she explored the marsh back of

her bungalow, then came to Room

104 with a story, her voice hopping

from word to word, branch

to branch, excited, lighter

than air.  We'd catch

her words, little creatures we'd

lose if we weren’t  quick

as they were.

Fall l945, back to school and the war

ended, Miss Banks brought home a

story from the desert.  Out before

the sunup, as ever, she saw the

sky fill up in every corner with one

sudden light, first whiter than any white

she had ever seen, then red, then

some nameless thunder that rattled

and dirtied the air around her.  July

16, 1945, it was.  She told us

it was marked in her Book of Days.

Oh Birdie -- hair in a bun, flowered

dress, school marm glasses --

it was all your disguise.  Oh Birdie,

you were our wild woman of

thicket, marsh, and desert, our

see-er come home covered

with feathers and dangerous dusts,

bringing home word

of the new seasons and what

they might mean for the children

in her willow tree.

James Hazard  (April 12, 1935-March 2, 2012) poet.

As part of the 2013 Midwest Small Press Book Festival (June 1 from 6-7 p.m. at People's Books, 804 E. Center St.), there will be a Tribute to James Hazard with Susan Firer, Jim Chapson, James Blessington, Antler, Jeff Poniewaz, Bix Firer and more hosted by Keith Gaustad.












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