Polioptila melanura

Black-tailed gnatcatcher
Alexis Springer



“O vespering bird, how do you know,

How do you know?”

Thomas Hardy


To have an eye for such things—small

and distant—the black underwings,

                     a summer’s crown,

                               insects emerging from the underbellies

                                                     of stone;


                    the black-tailed gnatcatcher knows emergence well—

                    swiftly traversing entangled cacti and creosote bush,

                               how she knows her prey inside, how she lives a life unseen.



Hidden in the humble desert scrub

the nest is an open cup—homespun


         from spider webs                strips of bark                tobosa blades—homespun


to hold the red-speckled eggs of her,

and the cowbird’s parasitic brood.


                                                               O high-strung songbird, what makes you

                                                                           release the sharp, scolding call?


This place, this nest once shared,

the speckled unborn lie still—


                                                                True, desert bird, what keeps you

                                                                           resident in this single, arid space?




Maybe it’s the way warmth rises.




Alexis Springer is a poet, educator, and freelance writer. Much of her writing is driven by her preoccupation with metaphysics. Her poems can be found in publications like Oleander ReviewFortnight Literary Press, and The Michigan Daily.