Leveler Poetry Journal
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Self Portrait Featuring Migratory Bird Treaty Act

after Hannah Gamble


I wanted to be like the songbird, singing

and light. Bones full of air.  And despite

my smallness to travel great distances


over mountains and across large tracts

of urbanized land without respite.

I wanted migration.  To persevere


through instinct the first time and after

through memory, my unique know-how

and gumption. And I wanted to be beautiful


while doing it, a perfectly embodied metaphor

for delicacy and grace.  I wanted it

to be made federally illegal to harm me,


to feel that special, protected.

But the migratory songbird

doesn’t really feel legal protection –


it’s mostly symbolic – what they feel

most helped by are bird-feeders,

probably, and empty fields


where we could have built, but didn’t.

Rebecca Bornstein