Five Poems
Jeff Encke

Central Intelligence Agency (Carpodacus purpureus)

Throat, breast, and flanks white with heavy brown streaks. The
belly and undertail unstreaked white. Brown back and
scapulars. You look with hollowed eye at the miracle drug,

at mineral waters, at pharmacogenomics. Mirabili dictu. Aglow with
yesterday, you sing from habitual posts, eating

seeds, buds, blossoms. Beggar's-lice. Yours, a bosom-buddy

Sifting clippings of halogen moons. This fidelity to areas of breeding.

Nuclear Regulating Commission (Carduelis tristis)

Like a trapdoor spider, it waits and observes. Lacquered black
caps, tails. Lemon-yellow bodies. The other stands, senses
movement, perched at the novitiate stage.

Between, another tool for the odds and ends of translation. Set upon
the shelf, the pendular bubbles rise and shift.

Some call this nuclear resonance. And it needs to be taken down
again. Look at the warpage in the wall.

You never can trust the city, the incessant movement in its transverse
colon, its noble gases leaking into the streets.

Office of Indian Education (Leucosticte atrata)

The friendly protagonist sets out in search of oakmoss, a discarded
glengarry, a clutch of emeralds. In search of reason -- to hold his
impulses in finely developed cheek pouches.

Not to trace a river to its source water. Downtown. Judy

Brown strikes beauty into the delicate system of the high country.
A slam from the dashboard. A basilisk

always standing in our path, weaving a metaphor of deceleration,
gleaning small seeds for consumption. Asterisks. Rosy
shoulders. Rabid dogs fighting in the sand,

beside a fragile alpine flower. At night, the moon floats down a river
of glass. Writing of queer noises in a nearby town.

Office of Lead Hazard Control (Taeniopygia guttata)

The mechanism to stave desire not yet naturally selected, we are
doomed to a slow extinction.

The female listens for aspects of song -- size of repertoire, loudness --
which correlate to the area of the male's territory. It hovers
below the cupboard,

an element of heat in its breast to which we return nightly, lights out,
doors latched, neighbors watching our rapid sexual maturity
through the blinds.

Office of Insular Affairs (Carduelis lawrencei)

You were the second I brought here to bathe and screw in the surf
with the fleas and communists. That I invited to this nest of
lichen, forb sterns, flower heads, hair and feathers.

Our eggs shall be pale blue and unmarked. In the distance, the sun
will set on a riparian woodland, over a ridged manifesto,

as I declaim to an empty theater. The year is several years ago, and
the years is now, and the year tomorrow.