For Roger and Beth Young
This morning I shot a starling straight from the sky.
The shiny, black bastard drove the sparrows and wrens
from your carefully kept feeders, then strutted
about the branches of our old apple tree.
You do not approve, Beth. Your gentle soul gives grace
to all creatures, even your sisters who just arrived.
You are pouring tea as I walk around the front of our house,
shotgun resting over my right shoulder.
Three sisters swoop down on your small
frame, pulling at your arms, pressing against your back.
Their cackling disrupts our quiet home, dark
eyes move over our stone floors,
pine paneled walls, and the small, cast iron stove
smoking away in the corner. You look away,
your eyes light, but your mouth a thin, rigid
line slicing your face in two.
As the youngest you bear their burden, the blame
for lost children and broken husbands. With each passing
summer they move farther from you,
carrying their judgment in packed bags,
buried beneath silk stockings and picture frames.
Their misery will grow like your carefully tended
lilies, and you, my love, will suffer.
But for now, you will serve sweet tea and yellow
cake. You will forgive, slip me a quick smile as
all four of you come round back, talking peonies,
and oriental poppies, just in time to watch me
string the starling up high, a warning
to his flock. As I descend from our tree,
three sets of eyes meet mine, uncertain
in the harsh summer sun. They move to bird’s
broken black body, swaying.
My warning is also clear.
This poem was originally published by The New Plains Review in their Fall 2013 issue.
Brianna Pike is an Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College. She received her MA from the University of North Texas and her MFA from Murray State University. Her poems have appeared in Bread & Beauty, Glassworks, Gravel, Heron Tree, and Mojave River Review among others. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband. She blogs at https://briannajaepike.wordpress.com.
Favorite poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Marie Howe, Katrina Vandenberg, Seamus Heaney, Mark Doty, Frank O’Hara & Walt Whitman.