Rose DeMaris

Pine Row Issue No. 3  Spring 2021 - Featured Poet

Bird Wife

I was that hummingbird 

who flew into your kitchen, my body 

metallic with desire 

because the hands that poured 

red syrup into glass 

would be stronger, I knew, than sugar itself,

sweeter to flutter under, 

better to beat my heart beneath. 

Your wife didn’t see you 

toss a tea towel—Home Sweet Home—over me 

and in the owl dark, finer than night, 

I stilled for your palm, with only cloth between us. 

You returned me to the sky 

though I wanted to fall, and later


I was that small brown finch

who crushed quills coming through 

a crack in the cabin 

where a bare mattress lay on the floor.

I teased the hunting dogs, sang

a glissando, hit windows, turned

air into wind against skin 

until, stirred by violent, swift, harmonic love, 

you woke for me, divorced.  

You knocked out a screen

and the morning breathed me 

back into blue

but what loneliness!— 

taking flight only in the atmosphere of you


so that night I was an osprey 

who watched from my branch,

opening a pink trout 

while you and also I walked along a river: 

our first date. 

My skirt rose and fell, passerine, just like the wings 

you’d seen at dawn, a gesture of Home 

Sweet Home,

and under the willow you asked 

“May I kiss?” 

High above, I finished my fish, 

quiet with the pleasure of having entered 

your world, where in the mountains 

around your unfurnished house


I was that speckled grouse 

who stood in wild geranium and grass

while you and I hiked up the path. 

I hurried through clover 

to cover my pale cream clutch

as also I knelt in buttercup 

to show you the white spider on white yarrow, 

how they matched, merged, blurred into one

as we did in the deerbed at the foot of the fir,

Home, in the sun. 

“I recognize you,” you said, 

tapping your chest 

fast as a hummingbird’s heart 

before its allotment of pulses


is spent, and I am that hummingbird

who circles us 

while all colors milk the fleeting light

to tint each plank of a porch

where we sit in silence like people long wed

though as man and woman we have recently met. 

Twice, I orbit the scene,

because an orbit is a measure of time 

and a circle is two decades in hummingbird years

and two circles, especially in gold, the magpies say,

make a marriage. I send a beam 

from my breast to the gods

asking that it be you who will bury me, 

wrapped in a square of cloth. 

Interview with Rose DeMaris

by Amanda Iacampo, Pine Row Editorial Board

Where did you find inspiration for writing “Bird Wife”?


Birds have long been part of my mythology. The first book I ever wrote, at age 19, was a collection of essays called “Birds Sing at Night,” which was a humble effort. I Xeroxed 12 copies and gave them to my relatives.


These days, I’m studying ornithology, so it often happens that a bird flies into a poem. Learning, observing, and writing about birds has inspired me to further explore the ways in which language might blur and break down the boundaries we often perceive between ourselves and the rest of creation.


Montana, where I lived for 18 years, also inspired me. The birds, river, mountains, and plants in this poem are all threaded to my memories of places where I walked, and things I saw, smelled and touched.


Who is the intended audience for this piece?


There have always been powerful figures in my imaginative life who catalyze my daydreams and my writing. As this poem made the journey from the first draft to the current version, it had different imagined audiences. Now it’s for anybody who might connect with it.


Who is the poet who you most admire? What is your favorite poem by this poet, and why?


There are too many. I admire the anonymous 15th- or possibly 14th-century someone who wrote Western Wind (Westron Wynde). It’s a perfect little poem—the alternating lines of tetrameter and trimeter, the satisfying bit of sight rhyme, the universally relatable feelings of homesickness, loneliness, and longing—all these qualities are like strands of the beautiful braid. It’s a cri de coeur, and there’s a way in which it feels spontaneous and almost artless, but it isn’t; it’s crafted. I think that’s an eternal mark of great poetry. Although it is crafted, there’s a roughness to it, as if that braid feels slightly frayed. There’s something so disarming, vulnerable, and almost broken about “The small rain down can rain?”


In your opinion, what measures the success of a poet?


I think a poet’s success may be measured by the degree to which her work causes unfamiliar or happenings in the mind of a reader, even if the only reader is the poet herself. 


Do you have a writing community you share your work with? If so, who are they?


Yes! I wrote alone, obsessively and happily, for decades. Then I reached a point when I knew I needed a writing community and was fortunate to be accepted into the Poetry MFA program at Columbia University, where I’ve just finished my first year. Because of the pandemic, most of us haven’t even met in person yet, but I’m inspired and encouraged by the brilliance of my teachers and fellow students.

Rose DeMaris writes poetry, novels, and essays. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published by Random House, The Millions, and Big Sky Journal. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Fourth River, Cold Mountain Review, Asymptote, and Roanoke Review, and she was a finalist for the 2020 Orison Anthology Award in Poetry. Her website is at