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Howard Bird
Mary Jo Balistreri


I sit on the sofa with Thelma,
an elderly lady who's captured my heart.
She shows me for the first time
her silvered wedding band
engraved with a feather. Without pause,
she opens the clasp of a Victorian purse.
This is Howard's picture.
I look at the photo of a mockingbird.

Not understanding I murmur,
Your pet bird? Looking from photo to ring,
she holds me with sharp periwinkle eyes,
explains: After my husband, Howard, died
a mockingbird began to appear
each morning in the tree outside my window.

Before I can comment, she asks,
Do you know for sure birds are just birds?

She holds a cup to her cheek waiting
for my answer. I ask, So you believe
Howard is a mockingbird?

You have it. He could mimic anything
he heard and play it on the piano. He visits
every morning.

No one speaks—
an uncomfortable interlude for me.
We sip orange pekoe.
Finally, she sets the cup
on the mahogany table. She leans back
against the cushion, and I take her veined
hand, skin so thin, the blue of a river.

That's why I had my ring redone
with a feather.
I agree it's a beautiful ring.

© by Mary Jo Balistreri.
Used with the author's permission.


Mary Jo Balistreri was a concert pianist for most of her life, but in 2005 she began writing poetry after the death of her seven-year-old grandson. Poetry gradually helped her transform her grief into something resembling acceptance. Mary Jo’s award-winning work is widely published and she is the author of four collections: Still, gathering the harvest, Best Brothers, and Joy in the Morning. In 2014, Mary Jo began writing haiku and haibun and, since then, has turned almost entirely to Japanese forms. Mary Jo lives in Wisconsin; learn more about her at






Post New Comment:
Great imagery! I felt as if I was sitting there with you and Thelma sipping tea and remembering the signs left when my loved ones went to live with the ancestors.
Posted 02/11/2019 05:14 AM
I�m right with you Jo! My husband appears as a red fox and I don�t care what anyone thinks!
Posted 02/07/2019 04:14 PM
becky evans:
A beautiful, believable love story poem. Very touching.
Posted 02/07/2019 11:26 AM
Lori Levy:
Beautiful portrayal of this woman.
Posted 02/06/2019 06:19 PM
What a great story!
Posted 02/06/2019 12:35 PM
Such a sweet story poem. I feel there has to be some truth in it. What a wonderful way to describe this fanciful lovely woman.
Posted 02/06/2019 10:19 AM
michael escoubas:
Wonderful interlude with a treasured friend, Jo. Such love, care and concern showed by you. Lovely poem. The best poetry follows from true-life experiences!!
Posted 02/06/2019 10:14 AM
Such a dear story. Good to see you here again.
Posted 02/06/2019 06:30 AM
Janet Leahy:
This poem takes a wonderful turn, lovely. Thanks Jo
Posted 02/06/2019 05:51 AM

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