A Thousand Bluebirds


Poem by Maureen Seaton and Neil de la Flor


“Bird Brain II” © Suzanne Sbarge; used by permission


Sinéad O’Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds


I am so highly evolved that when I dance I stand very still and bluebirds come and perch on my bra straps.

(I don’t have bra straps, only cups.)

(I only have cups on Sunday.)


I know now what a smiley face can do, and I exercise it judiciously, although sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not a certain situation merits a smiley face or a machete. Either way, it’s pretty funny.

In a sense, Seattle is a smiley face like all things beginning with sea.

And there are often grins that have something to do with moving the poor to another city, but I’ve never been there.

I’ve been in a tempest.

(Oil of a pumpkin? Pipe of a dream?)


Things that begin with ano: anoint, anodyne. I am anointed unceremoniously. I am something that soothes and comforts. What am I?

A mouse in tights.

A tight spot to maneuver.

Once I bought jeans with smile lines built in. They were hanging over the side of the bin, and they called to me, although nothing about them seemed illuminated.



Pondering them, I flew into Spanish. I was Spanish and covered with light.

Light of a goose, light as a father, re-numerated and stunning.

I pulled them over my existing legs and trotted around like a mouse. I was looking for a hole in the wall, proverbially.

That’s when I found Sinéad O’Connor, singing, when bluebirds flew out of her mouth.

Her coat was a thousand bluebirds coming to life and flying away like pieces of transformed sexual abuse.

And the crowd was pointing fingers at her coat, her blue tongue of feathers.

Such an intelligent bird, I thought, and all the cats inside me whispered: mouse.


Art Information

Maureen SeatonMaureen Seaton has authored seventeen poetry collections, both solo and collaborative. Her awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the Audre Lorde Award, an NEA Fellowship, and two Pushcarts. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls, also garnered a “Lammy.” She teaches creative writing at the University of Miami, Florida, where she first met Neil de la Flor and wrote two books with him: Sinéad O’Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds (Firewheel Editions, 2011) and Catastrophe Theory (Jackleg Press, 2012). Follow Maureen on Twitter at @mseaton9.

Neil de la FlorNeil de la Flor is a writer, educator, artist, and executive director of Reading Queer, a Miami-based organization dedicated to promoting and fostering queer literary culture in south Florida. For more information, visit Neil de la Flor's website or follow him on Twitter  @neil_delaflor.

This poem was first published in Court Green; it also appeared in the book Sinéad O’Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, which won the Firewheel Press Sentence Book Award in 2011.


I like this poem a lot. I

I like this poem a lot. I admire the deft touch in creating such a unique tension of layered voices, so lighthearted and deadly serious. But beyond that writerly appreciation and the harmonic convergence of reading the poem soon after the annual return of a pair of bluebirds to our yard, the poem also brings me to a question that has been nesting in my soul for decades: how accessible must a poem be to an audience of non-writers? I'm thinking of the late poet Steve Kowit's powerful interview in which he says, "... Ginsberg & Jeffers convinced me that I really wanted to write a thoroughly transparent poetry in which clarity was a decided virtue ... So I’m somewhat proud to be writing against the American grain, wanting ordinary literate people to love my work."

Please know this is not a criticism of the poem, but more so an acknowledgment that I don't think it is transparent to "ordinary literate people"--and wondering if you and any other readers of this superb magazine believe that kind of transparency is important--or not.

Dear Steve, thanks for your

Dear Steve, thanks for your reply of May 16 to our Sinead poem. I understand from the editors of Talking Writing that you were hoping for an acknowledgement from Neil and/or me on their website. Please know there was no disrespect meant in my silence. I was diagnosed with 4th stage metastatic breast cancer in May and have been deeply engaged in treatment. Poetry continues to provide sustenance. (I've been reading A LOT of Ginsberg myself lately.) I can tell you that writing with Neil was one of the greatest joys of my entire life. I just never knew where he was going to take our poem! A wondrous imagination! I began to think that language could do so much more than I'd ever experienced. And I know it is not simply my own joy that is important when I write a poem. I'm never quite sure what a reader will think or feel or who they will be afterward. I know I want to pass along a gift to the reader, which is something Muriel Rukeyser talked about, how a poem is a transfer of energy. She said that a poem "has the capacity to make change in existing conditions." (THE LIFE OF POETRY) I hope this is true, and I hope my work accomplishes this even occasionally. All my best to you.

HI, Maureen, Thanks for

HI, Maureen, Thanks for writing. So so sorry to hear about your struggles with the cancer. I'm very glad that poetry is providing some sustenance for you. Providing sustenance might be the best we poets can do with all those words.
And I love Rukeyser's notion of poetry as a transfer of energy. The part of the transmission that I'm struggling with these days is how to encourage a listener/reader to be increasingly available for that transfer.
Thanks again for answering--and my best wishes go along with you.

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