193. The Cards

“‘No longer now the winged inhabitants,
  That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,
  Flee from the form of man, but gather round
  And prune their feather on the hands
  Which little children stretch in friendly sport,
   Toward these dreadless partners of their play.’
                                                                   Shelley”

James scanned the lines, impatient:
The Red Crossbill.
“Fond of salt.”
He sighed; he should have known.
But I guess right, he thought, more
Turns than Matthew, who could
Never get the bird name
From its poem, till you
Told him what it ate.
Each card gave them
Clues, all they should need
To know the name: the poem
That described each bird;
Their markings, calls,
And nests:
          “in evergreens….
           in tall grass….
           laid on ground….
           among twigs, lined with
           vegetable down….
           orchards, gardens,
           nests of mud and grass,
           sewn up with hair….
           in holes in trees….
           in hollow fence rails….
           under eaves….
           a woven basket,
           braided milkweed flax….
           a down of ferns….
           nest blends with branch.”

                    YOU WANT TO DEAL?
NOT NOW.
Why can’t we play a perfect
Game? We keep on
Guessing, but we never 
Guess them all.
                     WHY NOT?
Barker’s blue eyes,
Fastened to his face.
                     CARDS MAKE YOU SAD TODAY?
NO.
James shrugged.
MAYBE.

                     HAPPEN WE PLAY CARDS,
                     HAPPEN YOU WIN,
                     ENORMOUS SCORE,
                     YOU WILL BE GLAD THEN?
SORRY.
I CAN’T UNDERSTAND.
                     PENCIL YOU HAVE YOU?
IT I FORGOT IT.
SORRY.
                     DAMN.
I FEEL HUNGRY.
I CAN’T THINK.
He would never speak those words.
Too, he tried to not talk food
With Barker;
It was mean.
YOU AND ME,
LET’S SUCK SOME GRASS.
They lay back.
Each chose a stem.
                     Barker smiled.
                     HARD QUESTION FOR YOU!
                     ANSWER!

James glumly shook his head.
His stomach ached.
                     COME ON, COWARD!
                     HARD ONE!
                     C-Y-A-N-O-S-P-I-Z-A
                     C-Y-A-N-E-A.
AGAIN.
                     Barker spelled it.
Grinning, James spelled back:
I-N-D-I-G-O
B-U-N-T-I-N-G.
His best bird,
And that funny name
Was on its card.
                     CORRECT.
                     POEM?
James scowled: Barker was so smart.
CAN’T REMEMBER IT!
                     ME NEITHER,
                     STUPID!

James whooped,
Almost gulping down his grass.
Barker made the rasping, spastic noise
James recognized:
His laugh.

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