birds are not real

birds are not real, but birdfeeders are
so are the squirrels that raid them
        angels are real
so are the bless’d anvils where angels are beaten into existence
	with imaginary hammers 
carnations and dahlias and oleanders, not real
sugarcane is real, cocaine is unreal
	horse lemons, real
	flag wax, real
	frisbee golf, real, but illegal in all fifty-seven states
yesterday i re-read revenge of the lawn 
by richard brautigan, this time with my eyes open
watching out for stray lawn darts
        richard brautigan is real
but bird’s nest soup is not 
i have an uncle named jay bird, yeah, that’s his real name
       he lives in florida 
which isn’t real, unless you’re a snowbird and enjoy shuffleboard
and don’t mind all the whackadoos 
        politicians are real
        and taste like chicken 
two fish swimming in a fishbowl, neither will speak to the other
they swim in angry circles 
one fish starts to think, and think 
        and think
then swims up to the other and says: oh yeah, well, if god isn’t real
who changes the water?
birds are not real, but flying fish are
	roosters, not real
        flamingos, not real
        pink plastic flamingo lawn ornaments, real 
today i am re-re-reading revenge of the lawn 
but this time much slower, looking for clues
i know d.b. cooper is hiding in there, and bigfoot 
        canada is real, but only in picture books 
the cellphone superglued to the palm of your hand is real 
        but your facebook friends are not
	and guess what- neither are you
hidden messages emitted from fluorescent lights are real, but i’m unclear 
on the science of tinfoil hats, will they save me from electromagnetic madness
or just cook my potato-shaped head even faster?
my distress is real
(and i don’t want to live in a world with no birds and an evil cabal of imaginary 
squirrels selling birdseed on every street corner and artificial flamingos playing 
frisbee golf with my naked-as-a-jay-bird uncle in a town with no carnations where 
the kool-aid flows like streaming reality shows and mr potatohead is the mayor) 
tomorrow i will re-re-re-read revenge of the lawn 
        this time backwards 
in the bathtub, with the lights turned off
        birds are not real 
        but their shadows are  


Published by

phillip woodruff

i live in colorado, i love poetry and fishing, i've never been to kentucky, i own 5 pairs of shoes, sometimes i drive too fast, i like craft beer, i own 37 fishing poles, i've never been to iceland, sometimes i drive too slow, right now there is a black bird outside my window, i stare at him and he stares at me

11 thoughts on “birds are not real”

  1. Politicians taste like chicken! That made me laugh out loud. I also love the fish’s question and the final several lines. “Revenge of the Lawn” sits on my book shelf but I don’t think I’ve read that one. It’s hard to say, because in my prime Brautigan-reading days, things were a little fuzzy and not always clearly recalled now. With two teacher friends, I spent part of the summer of 1978 traveling around, with Jackson Brown on the cassette deck (!) in the car and various Brautigan tomes scattered around the back seat. A Confederate General From Big Sur may have been one of them. Trout Fishing In America definitely was. In any event, the changing method of reading Revenge in this poem, and the various real and not real items make a grocery list of props and doo dads that somehow make a cohesive piece. I am not sure how you do that, but it’s trippy and weird and satisfying . I often think to myself “This can’t be real”, but it usually is, especially if it’s payable or resembles an inoperable melanoma. That’s when I escape into poetry or Youtube videos, depending on my mood. So glad you wrote for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you, coal. yes i’ve been on a brautigan kick lately, can’t get enough, and i started this for your brautigan word list, but didn’t get very far with it. i never did read a confederate general in big sur and it’s in my library, still need to get that one. revenge of the lawn has few of the “lost” chapters that were suppose to be in trout fishing in america, a very good read. right now, i’m trying to re-read the well wrought urn. if you’re not familiar, its basically a dissertation on traditional structures in poetry, and it’s boring me to death. i need to find something new to read, but nothing is grabbing my attention. yes, poetry and youtube, those are my escape hatches too, but for me youtube music, i could explore and listen to weird and cool music all day long. thanks again coal, and thanks for the lists, i really enjoy them

      Liked by 2 people

      1. thanks qbit, and yes, the fishing was great, catch 5 different species, brookies, rainbows, lake, brown and pike. i had a lot of fun and can’t wait to get back up there. so glad you enjoyed this

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My fly rods have been gathering dust since we moved from New England to NYC. Yes, I have seen people fly fishing in Central Park, but… y’know?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. fishing central park, that sounds kind of awful. i’ve never been to nyc so i know nothing about it, but it sounds like you’d be standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone. that would drive me crazy, solitude is half the goal, and i’m an introvert, that wouldn’t work for me. if you ever make it out to colorado, i can get you into some great fly fishing water, or even wyoming… we can shake all that dust off your gear

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s kind of amazing how you’ve managed to put a lot of Brautigan in this without in any way using his own style, just yours, which as always coruscates with so many facets the poem needs shades to be read properly. The line between real and unreal, that is poet’s country, and your divisions here mark a world that is disintegrating, that lacks any kind of integrity, but has the blinding, blinded clarity of black and white anyway, like an Ayn Rand book on acid. Not that you have any of those dregs in here, other than maybe Florida. The lines about the two fish in particular made me catch my breath, and the poem reads like saltwater and peach nectar, and all I can say is, I’m glad there is a mirror like this to look at the world and find its absurdity as well as its reality. Good to have you back.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. thank you joy, glad you enjoyed this. i have to admit, i get kind of tired of writing poems like this. so very heavy-handed, but society just keeps handing me more and more material to use. when i read the story about the group that believes all the birds in the usa are really robot birds the government used to spy on us, i couldn’t help myself, i had to rip it apart and have some fun. thanks again joy

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow. Well, this is special, Phillip! I love the dream-like almost hallucinatory visuals of it going from one frame of comparison to another, and you made me laugh out loud with this:

    ‘”hidden messages emitted from fluorescent lights are real, but i’m unclear
    on the science of tinfoil hats, will they save me from electromagnetic madness
    or just cook my potato-shaped head even faster?” 😀

    and the ending I found almost endearing, candid in a child-like way, as if, wait, I’m not done talking, there’s still this and this….

    “in the bathtub, with the lights turned off
    birds are not real
    but their shadows are .”

    Liked by 1 person

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