What’s happened to the herring gulls, that ubiquitous bicker? Where are the many who’d scream and wheel above our island picnics,
faces tilted, cocked-eye to the blueberry pie on the smooth rock below? Now in their place, double-crested cormorants
and their attendant gathering of terns that twist and twitter in a hunger flash, cacophonous confetti-cloud, fork-tailed and mean-mouthed,
snatching minnows scared up by the surging tide of cormorants, this flock they shepherd.
Seven big boats in the bay today—still the loons protect their nest, hoot and flap: over here! over here! I can’t help them.
Or the gulls. Or my son who is fledged and flexing his own hollow-shafted wings, trying to divide and divine the answer from its promise.
I no longer take the first burning bite from the silver-handled spoon. No need, too-late, to stroke his back, clear a path
through the detritus of his room, books and ancient underwear, damp towels on the floor, Lego long forgotten in a drawer.
I cradle a baby swallow flung from his neat nest, spindle-necked, a patch of downy crown, sallow fat along his twig-fine breastbone.
Shad-flies I stuff down that absurdly open throat hold him here for only a moment.
At dusk we call the dog who doesn’t come, find she’s cornered a snake under the deck, her furious tail a give-away.
Last night, a big fight and the bite of silence between us. Oh, we built our silence up, brick and mortared it. Such important work!
Almost an entire day, the sheer toil of it.
Now this snake, thick, gravid, its tail as delicate as our boy’s first baby bracelet. We pull the dog away, together bend close,
examine the patterned scales, such perfect camouflage, that unhurried, unblinking stare.
In the split second of eternity, what do we know that isn’t before speaking? — James Grabill
Near the end of his life, Charlie Parker had nowhere to go so he rode the subway
to the end, then rode it back again. He stood in front of Birdland in the rain
with nothing left to say. Music plays inside our home, in a mellow tone, Black Cat
purrs a wheezy tune, cockatiels whistle and buzz, my husband’s hands clasp ebony, mahogany,
feather nylon strings. His fingers move of their own accord, an articulated chord,
careful to convey what he’s unable to say, while outside, a red-tailed hawk completes a fence post in the rain.
Cynthia Neely is the 2011 winner of the Hazel Lipa Prize for Poetry chapbook contest for Broken Water, published by Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Her work has appeared in The Writers’ Chronicle as well as numerous journals and in several anthologies. Her full-length book of poetry, Flight Path, was published in May 2014 by Aldrich Press.