Bird Poem

by | Jun 8, 2021 | CNF, Issue Twenty One

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This morning I chased the chickens through the neighbor’s yard and into the apartment complex wearing only my underwear and a hot pink t-shirt. I tucked them beneath my arms, calling them dear heart, sweetling, birdie.

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I have called my son Bird since he was born. His name means dove in Aramaic. He was born during a difficult time.

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My grandfather called me Tiger, another cousin he called Steamboat. In his garden, zucchinis grew as big as a man’s thigh. In my father’s garden, tomatoes caught the wet summer light.

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One chicken is in perpetual molt, another refuses to lay. We cage what we love and what we want to stay. The rest we push away.

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In two years my son will be eighteen and tonight he hugged me so hard my back cracked. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just collapsed.

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The chickens have eaten the entire lawn, every green thing in the garden gone. We build a caged run. We lock them down. The new garlic spikes through the raised beds.

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When my son was little he would ask for a rocky hug and wrap his legs around my waist. In the dark, I didn’t think he could see me cry.

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Before my father died, he told me that in high school he stole two ducklings from a neighbor, raised them in a cardboard box in the garage, with just a bare lightbulb for heat. He smelled of cigarettes and beer.

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In high school, my friends and I would ride hotel elevators and pretend to faint just to see the faces of the adults around us darken. One man whistled at me like a bird.

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A man whistled at me like a bird. Am I the bird or is the man whistling the bird?

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A redwing blackbird whistles only when it’s warm enough to return to the marsh reeds. When it is safe.

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My son and I slept in the same bed for the first nine years. So we felt safe. So we. He tucked his feet beneath my knees. It was just him and me.

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Once a pediatrician told me it was wrong to let my toddler sleep in my bed. Let him cry it out, he said. Man up. What is that, a man? We walked out the door into a summer dusk. Sparrows dotted the lawn.

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Near dusk, the chickens gather near the coop. They eat corn from my open hand. Upstairs, my son plays his guitar and sings. In the darkling trees, wild birds wait to eat the fallen seed.

Read more CNF | Issue Twenty One

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