Callipepla gambelii

Gambel's quail

Geraldine Connolly



One by One: Gambel’s Quail


One by one they cross, the quail mother

and her thirteen trembling offspring.


One by one they hustle and scatter

and stop our car in its tracks.


They jump the curb and disappear

among the Saguaro, into the thorny wash.


Creosote leaves shudder at their approach.

A bobcat stops, entranced, to watch.


One by one they are eaten by coyote,

or saved, or they step into the Rillito


and sip the ribbon of water, nibble

seeds along the dry wash creek bed.


One by one they parade like squat

drunks with pompadours and crests.


They scuttle and peck, short-sighted,

short-tailed, short-lived. When I look


at them I want them to stop fluttering

like the pages of a wind-blown book.


I want them to stop quailing,

to step from behind agave shields


and make a high and sudden flight.

Cracks of monsoon thunder


would come from their wing beats.

They would wear battle dress


with a conquistador brandish,

helmets with plumage lifted,


faces painted with stripes, as

lightning branches crackled and flashed.



Geraldine Connolly is the author of three poetry collections and has received fellowships from Breadloaf, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland Arts Council. Her work has been featured in The Writers Almanac, Poetry 180 and American Life in Poetry.