"Nuthatch, a Letter from my Mother"

I try to remember that out the kitchen window

I am not watching birds but chickadees, finches,

and nuthatches at the teetering feeder

scattered by a bustling blue jay

seemingly more intent on scattering

sparrows than eating the seed.

They have a word for small fish.

Perhaps someone should invent

a universal term to accumulate

all the little flecks of flight into a single image.



I enjoy how the birds take turns,

have the pleasure of poor people

who fish the lake, one group catching

while the others watch, then the watchers

catching while the catchers watch.

Today when I was asked about my kids,

the question that makes one important

but diminishes the children, I said

your name, and the sound of it

drew down your distance.

Grown and gone, it is said,

but your name out loud

brings back the child by my side.



Your father recovers from his bypass.

I nurse, nurture, count heartbeats

like a band conductor keeping time.

I remain overwhelmed, but at times

instead of a nameless fury

I can distinguish feathers and feet

and how the pointed beak

of the nuthatch obtains the flax.


About the author

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, and works in mental health. He has poems in Rabid Oak, Terrene, The Monarch Review, Homestead Review, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize. Other work can be found at jeff-burt.com.


Jeff Burt