Spring 1989 • Vol. XI No. 2 Poetry |

Quail

What we wonder at first is why it won't go away, but waddles through the hummocks of dandelion and crabgrass, cross the fairway of the cats, from the garden's coiled vines to the concrete patio. It is the clink of ice in our drinks, we reason, like the hen's cluck, or just our large selves, the only things moving in its low field of vision. But it comes again, four times to our baffled helplessness, and we hold it in our palms. It is featherless, but darkly furred in down, wings like fins, tiny topknot a simple, barely perceptible ridge.I watch my son, nine years old, the soft scuffle enclosed in his hands, looking through the vacant, weedy lot across the road, watching for thickets or wallows, paths or feathers—any half sign of quail. He finds what he's looking for, turns the chick loose, and stands there. I am at the garden fence, thinking how clammy his young palms can be, and of the bird, dampened at the first long shadows of dusk. I can see my son is speaking now, moving off

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Robert Wrigley teaches at the University of Idaho. His sixth book, Lives of the Animals, will be published later this year by Penguin, which also published his Reign of Snakes, winner of the 2000 Kingsley Tufts Award.

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