One by One: Gambel’s Quail
One by one they cross, the quail mother
and her thirteen trembling offspring.
One by one they hustle and scatter
and stop our car in its tracks.
They jump the curb and disappear
among the Saguaro, into the thorny wash.
Creosote leaves shudder at their approach.
A bobcat stops, entranced, to watch.
One by one they are eaten by coyote,
or saved, or they step into the Rillito
and sip the ribbon of water, nibble
seeds along the dry wash creek bed.
One by one they parade like squat
drunks with pompadours and crests.
They scuttle and peck, short-sighted,
short-tailed, short-lived. When I look
at them I want them to stop fluttering
I want them to stop quailing,
to step from behind agave shields
and make a high and sudden flight.
Cracks of monsoon thunder
would come from their wing beats.
They would wear battle dress
with a conquistador brandish,
helmets with plumage lifted,
faces painted with stripes, as
lightning branches crackled and flashed.
Geraldine Connolly is the author of three poetry collections and has received fellowships from Breadloaf, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland Arts Council. Her work has been featured in The Writers Almanac, Poetry 180 and American Life in Poetry.