Feathers On My Mind

There’s a new prompt over at Today’s Little Ditty. Liz Steinglass, talented poet, supportive pal, and author of the forthcoming collection Soccerverse, has challenged us to write a poem giving instructions to an inanimate object about how to do its job.  When I was considering what to write for the challenge, a male goldfinch flew to our window feeder. It was a cloudy day, but the goldfinch’s feathers spoke of sunlight. The goldfinch didn’t really look like he needed any instructions from me, but I wrote him some anyway:


Instructions for a Goldfinch

How do I not have a photo of a male goldfinch in spring plumage? Here’s a winter bird.

Wear a suit of sunshine on a May morning.
Perch on the bird feeder.
Crack sunflower seeds with your strong beak.
Leave a pile of empty hulls.
Beware the stalking cat, the squawking hawk.
Sing a song of snack food,
    Potato Chip! Potato Chip!
as you swing your wings in rollercoaster flight.


Then I rechecked the prompt’s instructions. Inanimate object? Um, Mr. Goldfinch would likely not appreciate being classified as inanimate. But his feathers are not very animate without the bird’s assistance. So I started to write again:

Flamingo pink!

Instructions for a Feather

Blanket a bird with downy warmth.
Feel the air lift you and rise.
Use every crayon in your box:
flamingo pink, bluebird blue, oriole orange, sparrow brown.
Let troubles roll off you like water on a duck’s back.
Signal your strength and sex appeal.
Know when to blend and hide.
Bend but do not break.

Feathers that hide; feathers that don’t

The benefit of not following instructions is that you end up with two poems for the price of one! Happy Poetry Friday and thanks for visiting. And be sure to visit Dani at Doing the Work that Matters for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

31 thoughts on “Feathers On My Mind

  1. This poetry form is new to me – and I like your first one a lot! Clearly inanimate objects are not the only way to approach a piece like this. Such fun! I am inspired to try this.

    1. They are very fun to write, Dani. You should check out the padlet at Today’s Little Ditty if you have not yet done so–lots of great poems in response to the challenge.

  2. Buffy, Sunday morning is too late for me to add anything new in response to your two similar-but-different, rather wonderful poems. Thanks for waking up my brain with so many striking lines! (and for the email!)

  3. I’m laughing a little because my first attempt at the challenge also fell shy of the target. I told about what an inanimate object HAD DONE, but did not tell it how to do its job.

    I have to love your goldfinch poem the most because you included so many specific details about those cheery little guys — “the stalking cat, the squawking hawk,” the “song of snack food,” and the “rollercoaster flight.” Plus, of course, that “suit of sunshine!” I had never seen a goldfinch until I moved to Ohio and I have a crystal clear memory of the first time one “rollercoastered” in front of me as I rode my bicycle. I literally gasped!

  4. These are wonderful, Buffy! I especially love “wear a suit of sunshine.” Goldfinches love the fields near my house, and I love watching their “rollercoaster flight” across them as they search for thistle.

  5. Love love love both of your poems, Buffy. Goldfinches are one of my favorite backyard birds. The playfulness of “snack food” made me smile, and “feel the air lift you and rise” is perfection. Thanks for the double gift today. 🙂

  6. Yay! We need more 2-for-1 days at Buffy’s Blog! Both of these poems are gorgeous, Buffy. I think you must enjoy a special line of communication with your backyard critters, since they speak to you with such ease, and you, back to them, with such understanding.

  7. What a delightful two poems to read this morning. Suit of sunshine might just be my favorite line….although I love the, “beware the stalking cat”. Every crayon in your box…for the feathers is fun and aptly descriptive. I’m so glad I stopped in to visit with your birds and feathers today.

  8. Exemplary writing for all living beings. “Let troubles roll off you like water on a duck’s back. Signal your strength and sex appeal. Know when to blend and hide. Bend but do not break.” Words for all to live by. I will sing these words to my nesting mother robin . She needs encouragement for the 3 hungry beaks peaking out by my front door.

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