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Mary Mackey

Net Surfing 2:00 A.M.

in the great invisible electronic
library of the world
the real thing is nothing
image is all

bleary with coffee
and grief for a friend
who died the day before
I find myself staring at the screen and wondering
how many pixels it takes
to make a wood duck
or an island of black frigate birds
mating in the mangroves
their globed orange throat pouches
pulsing with birdly lust

in front of me
in a space no larger than two hands spanned
I can watch flocks of pink flamingos
stick-legged, silly-beaked
bits of egg-laying confetti
left over from the big party
of creation

there’s a comfort to the sight
of so many birds. Here at least,
I think,
life outruns extinction

once in Cambridge
in the Peabody Museum
I came across the last passenger pigeon
ever sighted in America
neatly stuffed
with combed feathers and agate eyes
sitting on a fake limb in a glass case
under a card which informed me
that it had been shot
by the Harvard expedition of 1893

once I read
that Audubon himself
killed to sketch

in front of me
electronic snow geese
by the thousands
swirl over the marshes
of the Central Valley
now in one night
I can see
more cranes and herons
than ever fled south
before the snows of winter

I touch the screen with my fingertips
taste it with my tongue
how cold this tiny window is
that drugs me with perpetual flight
on tapes and chips and CD-ROM
the programmers have recreated paradise
and yet . . .

I pause, consider, and decide:
I strike a key
I click the mouse
I let myself forget
the crossed out phone number
the returned mail
the name he no longer answers to
the silent woods
the long darkness
the quiet

Copyright 1997, Mary Mackey

Mary Mackey is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Dear Dance of Eros (Fjord Press, 1987), and eight novels, including three volumes of The Earthsong Trilogy (The Year The Horses Came, The Horses At The Gate, and The Fires of Spring). Her reviews regularly appear in The San Francisco Chronicle.

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