Blue Jay

`blü jā


1. Cyanocitta cristatta

2. a fluency of turquoise,
          sapphire, lapis lazuli

3. a calling or vocalization,
          a vocation


1. when the name is an aspect
          of the thing


1. to learn to speak like
          a jay, onomatopoeic

2. to mimic (archaic)

          Notes on Usage


Painted jayes and gentyl
          decked with diverse plumes

sing in the greenwood, figures
          of speech, garrulous species.


When country boys steal an egg
          or a fledgling falls,

a jay in the hand is worth less,
          not two but one brassy voice

taught to speke as men teche children
          not/to, either/or, both/and,

kept in an willow cage, patch wing
          shrilling japes, janglying.

At dawn and dusk a tin whistling
          echoing in the loft.


But sudden among hickory and oak,
          a pure metallic jarring—

blue jay more precious than lark,
          allusion, comparison

because its feathers are
          beautiful, not metaphor

because its calling demands answer


Wander into a dark wood and whisper jay,
          like invoking like,

learn to mimic
          like the jay effective at hawk,
          awful and apotropaic,

scream jaaay, of uncertain origin, mnemonic—

draw them with their own quicksilver
          flew flew fluting

Dana Sonnenschein teaches Shakespeare, folklore, and creative writing at Southern Connecticut State University. Her publications include creative nonfiction and books of poetry, mostly recently Bear Country (NFSPS, 2008), as well as two chapbooks of prose poems. Individual pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in Epoch, Feminist Studies, Painted Bride Quarterly, Measure, and elsewhere.