Spotted Towhee

I sit so quietly
a bird flies past me as though
I’m not here. Robin’s quick flash

of orange. A smaller bird
hops to the edge of the brambles,
his red eye assessing

a potential for song.
Dark head. Bright breastcoat.
Mottled wing.

I remember my brother
hushing me to hear
the repeated thrump

of a grouse. He said her wings
made that thumping,
probably a mother

signaling danger. He said
the grouse was a large bird,
and she sounded large,

as large as a calf,
as large as a smallish bear.
I couldn’t see her. All

I could see was my brother’s face
half in shadow, intense
and freckled. Listening hard.

Bethany Reid is the author of Sparrow, winner of the 2012 Gell Poetry Prize, selected by Dorianne Laux. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Blackbird, and Calyx. She blogs at, and lives in Edmonds, Washington, with her husband and three daughters.