Accidental by Stephen Cushman



Stowaway from Singapore,
no papers or passport,
surname unknown,

Short-tailed Babbler, Japanese White-eye,
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker,

whoever you are, passing passerine,
drawn to perch on a lifeboat winch
by some crumb or flash of an earring

as tugs yank the ship out into channel
and two days later, in the South China Sea,

you’re stuck too, nowhere to flee
from here to horizon, as shown by forays

of fluttering panic over the waves
and back before exhaustion drowns you,

little prisoner, condemned to be
transported to a dirtier city,

or if you hang on and cross all the way,
Black-throated Laughingthrush
or whatever your name is,

a snack for hawks in the U.S.A.

Stephen Cushman
Stephen Cushman has published four collections of poetry, Riffraff (LSU, 2011), Heart Island (David Robert Books, 2006), Cussing Lesson (LSU, 2002), and Blue Pajamas (LSU, 1998). General editor of the fourth edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, published in August 2012, he teaches at the University of Virginia.

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