Audubon's Studio

William Miller


One room on Barracks Street
was filled with brushes,
frames for canvases
he couldn’t afford.

A pistol, a rifle
were his first strokes.

Birds shot and killed
in the air, on the branches
of live oaks were taken home
in a canvas bag,
left on the bed
long enough to rot.

He painted them in rows,
beaks and feathers,
until the smell
got too bad, even for him.

And no one cared about
birds in the air
or on the street;
pigeons were “flying rats.”

There were no species
to endanger until he
shot, bagged, and painted,
gave them wings.


William Miller is the author of five collections of poetry. His most recent is Three Roads (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2012). His poems have appeared in West Branch, Verse, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.