By Traci Brimhall
My sister asks what ate the bird’s eyes
as she cradles the dead chickadee she found
on the porch. Ants, I say, knowing the soft ocular
cells are the easiest way into the red feast of heart,
liver, kidney. I tell her that when they ate the bird
they saw the blue bowled sky, the patchwork
of soybean fields and sunflowers, a bear loping
across a gravel road. Already, they are bringing
back to their tunnels the slow chapters of spring—
a slough drying to become a meadow and the bruised
smell of sex inside flowers. They start to itch
for a mate’s black-feathered cheeks and music.
As she cushions the eggs, their queen dreams
of young chickadees stretching their necks and crying
for their mother to protect them until they learn to see.
Sister, it is like this—the visions begin to waver,
and the colony goes mad, fearful they’ll never see
another dahlia tell its purple rumor, or see a river commit
itself to the ocean. As the last memory leaves them,
they twitch in their sleep, trying to make out the distant
boatman lifting his lantern, his face disfigured by light.
Traci Brimhall is the author of “Our Lady of the Ruins” (forthcoming from W.W. Norton), winner of the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and “Rookery” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. She teaches creative writing at Western Michigan University, where she is a doctoral candidate. She also serves as poetry editor for Third Coast and editor at large for Loaded Bicycle.