after Wanda Coleman

Ms. Birdsong what a beautiful last 
Ms. Birdsong are you the head of your 
Ms. Birdsong your total today comes to 
Ms. Birdsong your insurance will only cover
Ms. Birdsong can you please step out of 
Ms. Birdsong your test results are back and
Ms. Birdsong I am going to refer you
Ms. Birdsong thanks for your recent donation but
Ms. Birdsong you have been randomly selected for
Ms. Birdsong unfortunately you were not chosen
Ms. Birdsong I am calling about your past due
Ms. Birdsong do you really have a Ph.—
Destiny what a beautiful first 
Destiny are you related to someone
Destiny I can’t remember if that’s a wig but
Destiny if you’re not too busy I 
Destiny you are never on time for 
Destiny I’m not ready for a serious
Destiny I really need to ask if
Destiny this time I promise I
Destiny well I’m sorry if you felt like 
Destiny don’t hold your breath because 
                                             [Destiny, they will kill you and say you—] 
Destiny when will you be coming

Copyright © 2021 by Destiny O. Birdsong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Each of them described the brother's death in different terms, though the fact of his absence interrupted them indiscriminately. Do they know how he found his life, if from inside it looked like a cage shaped exactly like his body, except two sizes too big, growing as he grew, condensing when he made himself small, and no matter what he did, he couldn't dissolve its borders, not even while he slept. I don't think it let him sleep. At night, fighting sleep, I stay up as if hoping I'll catch wind of something. Tonight, or years ago, a wolf chased a deer past the cabin's front door and out onto lake ice where fate met each discriminately. Borders dissolved, but which one, between predator and prey, or stage and props? Anywhere there is a hole there are traces of arrival and departure. The wind becomes a palimpsest of the creature no longer here, and a song, or is it a cry, emerging from nowhere, on its way to nowhere, passes through until the textures of the earth absorb it entirely. Sound: a body's way of making itself known. Silence: a way of knowing.

Copyright © 2021 by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.