Oiseaux Tristes

Poem by Linda Stern

When I found the Selby, the folio-sized

“Golden Eagle, Young,” I thought,

This is the serendipity

that makes for a home—this engraved

Aquila, almost heraldic, double-matted,

an eggshell blue band on the inside

edge of the inner mat, calling

to the raptor’s eye feathers, tail feathers, beak,

as it rests on the mere suggestion of a branch.


But now, how sad I see you are,

not just as you are, stilled,

each preened slice settled into its space,

but also, as you were, not long ago—

like Ravel’s small notes, as they rise and fall,

rise and fall in the torpid air,

merely suggestions—before you

were captured on thick wove paper,

pressed like a thug in Plato’s

gallery, some wilder, less deliberate,

more particular self, gone

now into the eggshell blue


of a vacant, unknowable sky.

American Arts Quarterly, Winter 2016, Volume 36, Number 1