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.