Miriam O’Neal‘s work has appeared in AGNI, Blackbird Journal, Southern Poetry Review, Ragazine, and many other journals. The Body Dialogues (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2020), was nominated for a Massachusetts Center for the Book Award. She also is a 2019 Pushcart nominee and was a finalist for the 2019 Disquiet International Poetry Prize. A portion of her translation of Italian poet, Alda Merini’s, Rose Volanti appeared in On The Seawall, in Fall of 2019.
For the Birds
For months I’ve grackled about this plague,
chickadeeed my thoughts on isolation—
blue jayed about the unmasked by day,
starlinged the cluttered night, tried rafting
past my anger the way the turkey’s copper
feathers dip and glow as they cross the lawn,
but ended, each time, sparrowed by the loss
of waking lonely, gold-finch heart undone—
The wrenish sun still cold, I thread the needle
of my wish to robin forward. And although
winter still mocking-birds along, the light
lays longer on the lawn, and I am finched
with hope, my hermitage blue-birded by a rose
that stays past supper—hemming in the night.
Because we’d hurt each other, we waded through the day—
watched the sun-driven wind
settle in the grass. Waited for the earth to turn and bend
the horizon on its axis and the night to sally
in wearing her cloak of stars—heard the frogs’
basso profundo under the chatter
of last birds calling from tree and brush. Their chat,
a final tidying of brooding daylight
shadowed by the hours in which we leap frogged
over what could wait or ducked what the too hot breath
of resentment refused to leave in place—our bickering the sally
of long marriage; large and small remarks we bent
into the shape of cups curled
by resentment to collect the splash
of anger. Then, sundown and the rush
of red as daylight’s
definitions melted thing to thing to dusk, while the migrant wind
died to a luff and we finally unraveled our knots.
I’m sorry I called you a fucking idiot, you said, I’m such a toad
I shouldn’t let my mouth go around the bend
just because I know what I mean and you don’t. Sorry I wound
and spun out of control. I tell you I’m sorry for my own natter
and for throwing my flip-flop at your head. My father would say, The day
should never end on words of anger. The essence
of a happy life is letting go. He’d point to Sarah
after all those years of fixing stitches
in the infant wrap she’d knitted and come to loathe like the day,
which, each morning, showed, her belly still unbent
with child, finally able to ignore the stinging gabble
of the handmaids when The One moved through her like wind
through lemon groves—touched her with the breeze
of God-love, her snarky laughter lost in a sudden rush
of gladness as she listened to the servants’ natter
turn to the subject of her thickened breasts and curving
waist that made the space where Isaac swam like a tadpole
wriggling in its pool at night, waiting for daylight.
We can’t take back our snipes more than a frog
can retrieve the wag of its lost tail, but we can let the last of day’s
light winnow out the chaff of those hurts before we say goodnight.
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