1. My dad came over and brought me a sandwich.
2. I told him about the bird prior, though I think he forgot.
3. Before I got to the door I pointed. Said nothing.
4. The dog barked and I felt like that was appropriate.
5. He asked me for a pair of scissors.
6. I didn’t tell the dog to hush.
7. Gave him a really nice pair of kitchen shears from inside my purse.
8. I opened up the bag for the sandwich and divided it in half.
9. One for you, one for me.
10. He walked to the trash can about one hundred yards down the driveway.
11. When Dad came back inside he washed his hands and asked for a towel.
12. I took the half with more peppers on it.
13. “Where was the hair tied to him?” I asked.
14. He picked a few more peppers off his sandwich and handed them to me.
15. The hair was tied around his feet.
16. I kept staring out the window.
17. Some olive slices fell out of my sandwich.
18. It was turkey.
19. “Stop staring, Katie. You’re going to get bad dreams.”
We have birds here. Swallows. Or sparrows. I can’t really remember the difference, and I don’t feel like looking it up. We do live out in the country; of course we have birds. The swallows build nests out of mud and horsehair they find in the pasture. They scoop mud inside their little beaks and stick it on the side of our family’s home. Usually we knock the nests down. The swallows keep coming back and building the nests though. I even tried putting WD-40 on the spot where they build them every year. It is right outside the kitchen door. The birds always come back. Swallows are relentless.
I left this particular nest up because I waited too long to knock it down. There were already eggs inside. It is a rule of mine to not knock the nest down with eggs inside. It hurts my feelings to kill unborn things. I’ve never done it. When I do knock it down I use the water hose and a broom.
About a week ago (or so) the baby birds hatched. Fresh swallows are ugly without feathers. I like to see their beaks opening wide for the mother bird to feed them. It reminds me of an eye blinking or a camera shutter. Sometimes I sit and watch them. The babies get so hungry that they try to push each other out.
This morning when I got up to do my chores I looked up at the nest. I had just eaten breakfast. Hanging from the nest was a baby bird. They finally grew feathers. He was completely outside of his home. I know he is hung up on a horse hair. I can’t figure out if it is tied around its leg or wing or what. I got the broom and tried to nudge it back into the nest. You aren’t supposed to do that.
The little body flopped because it was still half alive. I started crying. I finally got the barely feathered bird in the nest. The other two babies in the nest pushed him out again. I cried even harder. The little swallow was just hanging there, dangling. The mother and father birds were flying around frantically. Their wings look like fins.
I want to take a picture of it, but I don’t want to actually have to look at it. I feel like this is something that I should remember. Like an omen. Or a metaphor for my life.
I hope not.
A couple hours later I walked out the door and tried not to look up. I looked up. The little body was limp, slack, stifled by the heat. Today seems like an especially bad day for dying. It’s too hot to die. 108 degrees.
I finally looked up what kind of birds they are; they’re swallows. I should have known that.
Later my dad is coming over. He’s cutting it down for me. I can’t dispose of the body.
I can’t look at it.
1. War 2. Michael Jackson’s death 3. Being “bored” 4. The heat 5. Being “lonely” 6. People sleeping with other people who aren’t their people 7. The wind 8. Time passing too slowly 9. Headaches 10. Homework 11. Mothers
1. Drinking wine
4. Eating freshly baked zucchini bread
5. Not paying attention
Airplanes land in Carolina
Touch down in San Francisco,
when his boots hit the tarmac
his eyes will shine ship steel gray
like he had been staring at
his pistol’s curves and waiting
for the sound of a woman’s voice.
Waiting by the telephone
I listen for the ring—
of shots, gold hitting wood, clink,
ting and the aftershock vibrations
of sound waves capped in viscous
red ink ebbing like the collapse of
and era or a lung with with a hopeful
last breath. I wold want to hear
his— if it was the time to call
or to be called again into the sky
not dark like nighttime and not yet
morning, mourning then is less painful
like being shot in the leg instead of
the gut, same reaction to hold yourself tight.
Overhead aiplanes come and go
like a ghost of a wisp of smoke vanishing
in the air where it is thick, not moist,
and I only hear the echo of a ring.
Airplanes are lost in oceans and bullets
found in bodies and I’ve seen a widow’s eyes
turn gray when she read her husband’s headstone.
Pistols are like telephones ringing, shots
are to be anticipated like a husband’s hands
guiding along his wife’s breast which heaves
under many different circumstances and all
in the same gray house. Morning will arrive
along with his call and I’ll ask if he’s looked
in the mirror and to tell me the color of his eyes.
He never seemed to find a place
With the flatlands and the farmers
So he had to leave one day
He said, To be an Actor
He played a boy without a home
Tom, with no tomorrow
Reaching out to touch someone
A stranger in the shadows.
Then Marcus heard on the radio
That a movie star was dying.
He turned the treble way down low
So Hortense could go on sleeping.
-“Jim Dean of Indiana” by Phil Ochs
From The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake
4. Feel bad
5. See anyone
1. Take care of Margarita and the cats
2. Go to town, do errands
3. Drive to Oakland
5. Try and talk to G
6. Should get my car washed
7. Hang laundry
8. Edit poems
1. A quilt made out of patches I’ve embroidered with important sayings and parts of my poems on it.
2. An embroidered sampler that says something sweet, like:
“Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He calms the sailor.
3. An embroidered drawing of something very personal
4. A granny square blanket (I need to re-learn how to crochet asap)
5. An exercise in Randomwork, in a wooden hoop
6. A very snarky cross-stitched sampler, maybe even a bit offensive
7. Something embroidered and anthropomorphic
1. Bald for as long as I can remember
2. A great pair of Ray Bans on his head for 10+ years
3. Never once spanked me
4. Let me put pretend makeup on him
5. Took me to his college classes with him
6. Taught me how to answer the telephone and say hello politely
7. Went on many field trips with my class
8. Coached countless volleyball teams for me
9. Told me I was pretty and smart and kind
10. Took us to look at Christmas lights
11. Ate lunch with me and my friends every day of sophomore year
12. Was so happy when Glenn asked him if he and I could get married
13. Has and always will be there for me
1. Travel to Europe and eat lots of bread
2. Lay in the park and read to you
3. Hold your hand in the grocery store
4. Skydive in Lodi
5. Live in The South
6. Try new recipes
7. Roadtrip to Mobile, AL
8. Sing Amazing Grace
9. Cry with joy
10. Lie in your truck bed and look at the stars
11. Lie to somebody
12. Run through the sprinklers
13. Dance to a song I play on the kitchen pots
14. Carry something heavy on our backs like we’re ants
15. Eat fresh warm cornbread with butter and home made spun honey
16. Drive and old red Mustang
17. Grow tomatoes
18. Rub Coppertone on each other on the beach
19. Dance the foxtrot with our family watching
20. Make a rocking chair
21. Laugh until you throw up
22. Cry until we have no more tears
23. Turn 80
24. Have babies
25. Collect our secrets in a jar
26. Hide out during a storm
27. Find another Tompta man