what it sounds like is a bird breaking small bones against glass. the least of them, a sparrow, of course. you’re about to serve dinner and this is the scene. blame the bird, the impertinent windows, try not to think of the inconvenience of blood splattering violet in the dusk. how can you eat after this? do not think of whom to blame when the least of us hurdles into the next moment. a pane opening into another. the least of us spoiling your meal.
the smell of it will be smoke and rank. you will mutter about this for days, the injustice of splatter on your window. foolish bird. civilization. house with the view. fucking bird feeder. it will take you a week, while the flesh starts to rot under thinning feathers, while the blood has congealed and stuck, for you to realize that no one is coming to take the body. it is your dead bird. it is your glass. you have options you think. hire out. move out. leave it for the bigger blacker birds.
you will taste rotting just above the top of your tongue. so much, that you check yourself to make sure that it is not you. the bird deserves something. you go to the closet, pick out a shoe box. discount? designer? you start to think of how it has come to this: pondering your mortality through a bird. a dead bird. never-mind. you don’t find it a problem not running into windows.
it is an eyesore and we start to gather as large billows in your yard. you marvel at us, beautiful, collecting and loosening our dark bodies from white sky to your grass. and then it comes. more bones and blood. one by one crashing into the closed pane. mindless birds. brown and gray feathers. filthy pests. another. fucking feeder. we look like billions lifting into flight and then—shatter.
you might find a delicate humility in the art of cleaning glass. while you work, you sustain tiny slivers of opened flesh. tips of your fingers sing. shards, carnage, it has become too much. you are careful to pick up all that you can see. you call a repairman. you are careful to pick up all that you can see. you throw everything into big shiny trash bags. you are careful to pick up all that you can see. you consider french doors. you are careful to pick up all that you can see and find more with each barefoot trip through your bloodbath house.
Copyright © 2020 by Bettina Judd. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I was there at the edge of Never,
of Once Been, bearing the night’s hide
stretched across the night sky,
awake with myself disappointing myself,
armed, legged & torsoed in the bed,
my head occupied by enemy forces,
mind not lost entire, but wandering
off the marked path ill-advisedly. This March
Lucie upped and died, and the funny show
of her smoky-throated world began to fade.
I didn’t know how much of me was made
by her, but now I know that this spooky art
in which we staple a thing
to our best sketch of a thing was done
under her direction, and here I am
at 4 AM, scratching a green pen over a notebook
bound in red leather in October.
It’s too warm for a fire. She’d hate that.
And the cats appear here only as apparitions
I glimpse sleeping in a chair, then
Wohin bist du entschwunden? I wise up,
know their likenesses are only inked
on my shoulder’s skin, their chipped ash poured
in twin cinerary jars downstairs. Gone
is gone, said the goose to the shrunken boy
in the mean-spirited Swedish children’s book
I love. I shouldn’t be writing this
at this age or any other. She mothered
a part of me that needed that, lit
a spirit-lantern to spin shapes inside
my obituary head, even though—
I’m nearly certain now—she’s dead.
Copyright © 2019 by Mark Wunderlich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
For the bulldozed house. For the ripped-out yard. For the mourning doves that won’t come back to the swamp, not this time. For the trees planted in the yard when the children are born, for how tall they grow—the trees—even after you’ve died so young. Can any loved field be a churchyard is the start of a letter I’m writing. Postmark no date. I can’t bring myself to open the mail. It’s hard for us to understand God’s plan is the message, but I learned early that the flood was a sentence. An earned blight. There isn’t going to be a eulogy for this. No hymn songs. No innocent dirt. For all the changeling girls who couldn’t pull the splinters out, whose wings did not form. Is it a system—if the water wants to drown us—is it? If I say it’s the water’s fault? Behind me in the dirt there are only wet prints leading back to your grave. I don’t want to take back all my trying. In the beginning there was a word for this. I carry it now like a bit in my mouth.
From Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.