“Call those high birds hungry and your vision meat.”
—Richard Hugo

I’ll be forty this year and hardly know
the names for things. I need to know
what to call these birds. Even without the Old Testament,
even without Adam, a name means something,
contributes to a good parsing. Agnostic means you don’t
know. The birds I hear now are just birds,
melodic blurs. The slight pain I feel is hunger, off to the side,
like a stitch. I’ll call this one a swallow, this one a sparrow,
this one a starling. No birds of prey here, no barn owls,
no peafowl. Only what is small, suburban.
But these birds are hungry, and have names.
I like starling, as a name, best. I’ll call every bird
starling until I can come up with something better;
my vague, pathetic hunger I’ll call a pigeon: dull,
ubiquitous peasant. I say them and they land
where they land. I suppose it’s not important
to get it right, as long as you mean it.
These birds are starlings because I say they are,
and I am some pedestrian starling.
Some possible meat. Some aberration.
An off note in our respective singing.


Steve Lambert was born on Barksdale AFB in 1974, and grew up in Central Florida. He works in a library and is an MFA student at UTEP. He lives in St Johns County, Florida with his wife and daughter.

Share →

One Response to “Starlings” by Steve Lambert

  1. Joanne Spencer says:

    The slight pain I feel is hunger , off to the side, like a stitch

    Love this line of the poem. Also the way the poem moves to enlighten the most mundane idea that things have names.

    Look forward to reading more from this gifted poet.

Leave a Reply to Joanne Spencer Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>