One Reading of the Contraband of the Hoopoe



requires a suspension of disbelief,

new, unpredictable logic,


tones of bells, strings, and drums,

bodies frozen,

bodies in motion,

many birds,

always the hoopoe


sometimes the editorial disruption of flight,

names sometimes unfamiliar except to the Slavic mind,

names of those whose work is the work of us all,


metonymyies in every pocket

and sewn into the hems of travelers,

lost ways, old ways,

wood and seeds and tenses,

carried, carry, carried, carry, carry,


(a wind ruckusses through feather’s pins,

the owl’s silent strike, the mute swan’s alaric splash

and creak) departure, passage, arrival,


regret the sieve,

want the detritus with which the slick roads are strewn,


relief and grief the warp and weft,

of cloth cut and stitched,

stained by golden beets,

by blackberries and inkberries,


dreams in a runnel of unfamiliar tongues,

click and clack of black glass beads,

amber beads, wooden beads painted tulip red,


beads that chatter with spoons and candlesticks,

how the beads are strung

7, 3, 10, each number

its own language

carried, carry, carried, carry, carry…



Miriam O’Neal has published poems and/or reviews in AGNI, Marlboro Review, Louisiana Literature, Birmingham Review, The Guidebook, previously in Ragazine.CC, and elsewhere. Her translation of Italian poet, Alda Merini earned her a Beginning Translator’s Fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in 2007. Her manuscript, We Start With What We’re Given is currently looking for a home.