Some Thoughts on Birds and Trees…

(in Oaxaca City, Mexico, a handful of months after living for a year in my parents’ suburban Chicago house for the first time since I was seventeen, this time with my wife of five years in tow, in order to help my family through my mother’s battle with cancer)


The morning fills with auditory backdrop—cinematic and subtle, manufactured in its perfection. Teams of warm-blooded tree swallows sing like ceramic swallows scored by tape recorders, bearing the voluptuous super-realness of a good stage-prop, bouncing on birdfeet, wings tucked in like dress-shirts, respectfully, along the same wire of sound shared by the neighboring church bells, each the birdsong and bells necessary to keep the other balanced on this aural cable, some communion of the animal and the celestial, if bound only linguistically in some thesaural depth of tightrope, skywire, bullwhip, rabbit ears, the doublesong walking end-to-end, then back again, revising the

wire’s name with each pass, bird snapper, aerial, pass after pass until we finally stir in each other’s necks, warm in Oaxaca sleep and Oaxaca sun, the jungle-tree shadows fanning the sound through our window and soft rose curtain, the color of the sound itself, now coupling with Louisa’s usual waking groan, a rocking chair crushing bird and bell, all high notes downed in gurgling jumble, twittery alarm, teet, trrit, teet, teet, trrit, teet, trrit giving way to the raspy chee-deep, chiddy-deep, then no sound at all—the hour having been church-called, bird-called, then silenced in the flying away.
“Is it morning already?” Louisa moans into my ear, the soft yellow sheet crumpled beneath us, the heavy woven blue blanket bunched at our feet. This is Hotel Los Golondrinas, The Swallows Hotel. This place seems as if pushed organically from the earth itself—some medieval igneous intrusion, carrying with it the bloodtip of magma, of core, and, as the years passed, tickled the Zapotec goddess of fertility to spawn this stretch of rooms hidden in a maze of foliage.
As Louisa struggles to wake, shifting from one side to another in the bed, I open the room’s old door, thick ponderous slats of whale-wood, to this massive outdoor walled garden—stylized yellow arches of stucco, stone, brick, spherical bursts of flower and leaf, pottery jugs and vases and bowls lining the narrow walkway, itself inlayed with shards of yellow glass, coral, turquoise, the path’s stone border strewn with tiny ceramic