Passerina versicolor

Varied bunting

Hugh Behm-Steinberg



Essentially nothing has been published about the natural history of the Varied Bunting

in the heart of her range. She treats you better thereafter not sure.


In the outer branches of thorny shrubs every part is a slope disposed to fighting over

with many others along Forest Route 183 in Agua Caliente Canyon on the western side of

     the Santa Rita Mountains.


Some males fighting in the mesquite trees. The sense that you might hear my happiness.

     Contents shifting in flight.

When you are young your mother gathers your hair and makes a sister of you.


Tell her I don’t know what to make of you and very heartbroken or shy, a long warble of

     rising and falling phrases.

All the money poured out in developments. Your sister is a man with a siren for a head

     in this economy he smiles and lets all the birds out.


And everything is cultured again, a bird with a bug in her mouth your sister says I used to

     be so thirsty now I’m only a little bit thirsty.

I’m only going to be here a little while I only have to be here a little now.


Just for the summer, your mom says. Then drive me my heart my sparrow shaped bird,

     nothing will be blamed when you go get cast down it’ll get better.

The hammer lifts the nail which curves from the wood holding the sign up we won’t be

      that way much longer at the airport.


You know, don’t you? You hear the wings flash how green it’s going to get or

isn’t yours anymore, what wilderness is for, to not be property anymore.


Vertical and possessing two pairs. As a person and not holy thereby holy or seeking

to be a series of backshifts or weave open cup nests of grass and spider webs.




Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press), forthcoming in September, 2012. He lived in Tucson from 1990-95, while getting his MFA at the University of Arizona. He currently resides in Berkeley, where he teaches at California College of the Arts and edits the journal Eleven Eleven.

*Parts of this poem were collaged from “Varied Buntings in Agua Caliente Canyon.” T. Beth Kinsey.