The Refrain

The light gray bird flies across the fence.

It flummoxes the squirrel and cordons off the yard.

It flies into the office and enters the sentence

I was writing about a bird that lacks clear ambition

But understands the glimmer of the pin

Because its eyes are made of needles.

The bird upchucks a fetus because like all birds

Its body is pain’s whistling vehicle.

It shimmers on the bookshelf, whistles a fight song

And pecks at the forefathers’ portraits

Before building a nest with their radioactive scraps.


What is it thinking? What does it want?

Can it hatch offspring in this fucked up sludge fest?

What is the bird’s mood? Is it an apricot?

Masculine? Feminine? Feminine-masculine?

Militant? Militant fruit? Fiery fruit? Bursting flesh?

A fire opening in the sun? A sun burning a crèche?

Where can it leave its brood?


*************************************  When the bird

Flies back to the window, the window becomes its song

And its nest and its throat of blood.

It launches a neighborhood protection program

And from the rosebush assembles a man of thorns,

A big cop whose head is congested

So he pistol-whips himself until the enhanced interrogation

Launches his brains into the sky

Where the bloody pieces become a droning swarm

Blocking out the moonlight, bloodying the sunlight,

Drowning the birdsongs, clogging the throats,

Clustering around the gray bird and ushering its clusters

To the squad car, the cash nest, the broken unlit cradle.


Nathan Hoks’ books include Reveilles (Salt, 2010) and The Narrow Circle (Penguin, 2013), which Dean Young selected for the 2012 National Poetry Series.  He currently teaches poetry writing as a lecturer at the University of Chicago, and runs Convulsive Editions, a micro-press that produces handmade editions of chapbooks and broadsides.



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  1. Pingback: Table of Contents, Issue 13 | Matter

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