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American Life in Poetry: ‘Startled’ by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

I’ve never seen a frigate bird (or a frigate) but wanted to offer you a poem to prove that the hawks and crows of the Great Plains aren’t the only ones that get attention in this column. Sally Bliumis-Dunn’s poem comes from her chapbook, Galapagos Poems, from Kattywompus Press. She lives in Armonk, New York, where there are frigates, but no frigate birds, or so I’ve heard.


Massive and black

the frigate birds,

on brambles in the distance.

Their bright red gular sacs,

full as spinnaker sails

billow from their feathers,

like giant hearts of skin and air.

They remind us of our own

hearts, oversized and awkward,

quivering in the lightest wind.

Poem copyright 2016 by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, “Startled,” from Galapagos Poems, Kattywompus Press, 2016. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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