Ned Dougherty

Issue #
September 27, 2015


I don’t believe it anymore. I don’t believe in
the summer. I don’t believe in the toy boats
or the logdams. I don’t believe the tiny sparrows when they tell me
they believe. I see their fidgeting wings and they are uncomfortable too,
they have just adopted a slackline mantra getting jazzed
electric toes. I don’t believe in living juiced like sparrows.
at that very interval you pluck a feather from the
mulch of the garden bed & it glows a citrusy black
you have never seen before. there are dozens of them.
usually the cats only proffer mice or infant bunnies:
that’s what that was, that was a
plucked and halved bird—– the spree has jumped species
the killing is wider
your mother collects feathers for her healing (for her new way)
but where she lives feathers are like dirty air filters, where black
birds just need a good shake to get the dust out and then they
could be doves, they already are, like a sooty goose is then a swan.
no one picks up birds in those parts because the winged
ones are fluish        but your mother picks them up and heals
women. she harnesses something
no one around her believes in.
some birds are holograms: their sheen is slick like water
molecules on oil or slug skin or sunsplashed hair, or when
they fly and hit that vertical moment when they are just a lock
of wingspan and then a miracle of body again and then icarus.
what a trilogy for you what else is there to witness but this! but then
the sun wheels onto the runway and the only bird is night, like
a great horned ichabod, the owl is feared by people who
believe crow’s a grimy jay, and for good reason because the
owl screeches those people. you can’t always trust you’ll sleep
well because of the hunter’s moon, but you know
your mother is safe.                                                             

maybe you have been to too many gardens,
not enough chapels. you don’t sleep because
geranium is your talisman and you should not have talismans.
the cats are stalking and you are alert and, in the same moment
you are thankful they don’t have a tongue for cabbage, you
remember the yellowing pine with the nest. you sweat. the arugula!
you pull. the noise cracks the cat’s ear and she softens.
and you breathe. but the arugula has bolted and gone
sour—your mouth swamps, puckering to the sky as a cardinal
flashes through the sightline. the cardinal is her favorite bird
and your grandmother’s hair. you cannot
believe it. you don’t believe they are here
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