Backyard Bluebirds

Ben Groner III


“Someone will say: you worry about birds.
Why not worry about people?” – Thomas Merton


As if concern or attention, or love,
can have only one place to land.

I also worry about the emaciated
polar bear, the swarm of bees with
no bud to rest on, the mackerel with
microplastic shards in its gullet,

and mostly—perhaps too often—
myself. But our brains can only
take so much strain, our cells
only so much stress, before
telomeres wilt and shrivel.

So, I avoid the gauzy gaze of the
panhandler at the intersection
on my drive to work, who every
morning motions for me to smile.
If I truly took him in, if I imagined
him as a fleshly vessel for some
cosmic energy, I’d have to worry

about him too. Why, Thomas, do
we treat other people as if they’re
pieces of furniture? When will we
learn that the ever-branching arms
of chance and the hands of fate

at the end of those lumbering limbs
are our own? These bluebirds in my
backyard don’t seem to have many
concerns. They alight on the deck,
tilt their tiny heads, studying, before
flashing away in a blink of blue,

undulating toward the oak tree, not
worried about sticking the landing.
As they soar through the limbo
amid the carpenter bee-pocked
deck, vine-encrusted powerlines,
weathered shingles, and sprawling
cottonwoods, they seem at peace,
understanding the distance between
where they are and where they could be
is traversed only by leaping, by letting
the firmness beneath their feet fall away.


Ben Groner III (Nashville, TN), recipient of Texas A&M University’s 2014 Gordone Award for undergraduate poetry and a Pushcart Prize nomination, has work published in or forthcoming from Whale Road Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Bookends Review, One, Still: The Journal, New Mexico Review, and elsewhere. He’s also a bookseller at Parnassus Books. You can see more of his work at

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