Rob LeBer CC
When I was six I could fly.
I was smart, but secretly beautiful
I was beautiful, but secretly smart
from day to day it changed
because a girl can never be both.
The night light spun circles on the ceiling
shadows became faces that would come
to life at night and descend on my bed
crawl into my ear and whisper fears
if I closed my eyes and laid perfectly
still I would rise above my bed, levitating
near the ceiling in the dark corners where
the light wouldn’t reach. Above the faces
I wasn’t scared. Even then I knew there was
power in secrets.
At first three steps from the bottom, then four,
then six, and soon I was leaping more than half way
from the top step—floating and dizzy as a feather
spinning from a nest. It only worked in the dark
when the house was asleep. The night watched
me—tiptoes, and bent knees, arms outstretched
and jumping, landing soundless and unbroken
on the tile foyer. My body a parachute, my hair
a cape, it was hard not to brag, to walk down
the stairs with my heavy feet each morning.
One day a bluebird, angry and hurt swooped
in through our open door. We worked all day
to redirect it. Pointing it back the way it came,
as we let in every flying thing, the door yawning
open, every screenless window gaping, our home
full of flies, of bees, of moths and still that bird
screamed, flapping from corner to corner, never
seeing the way out. In bed I heard the thud
of it, the heavy fall. You said its heart just stopped
but the bristles of our kitchen broom were stuck
with blood. I stopped flying for good. Birds sing
the loudest in the dark when they think they can’t
be seen. Secrets are always safe with me. Years of keeping
a security clearance, all those anonymous 12-step meetings,
so many skeletons rattling between my ears. I’d be hard
pressed to recall which was yours, which mine
what was real, what was make believe.
Scars and Stitches
Like the beginning of a headache
the sad ghosts you gingerly
free from doubt, maintain
a considerable amount of dignity
convince the moon to make a u-turn
watch it peek over shrubs
a balloon floating up the gorge
soaking us in heaven, stars
are a dead father’s shook dry ashes
a kind of ruin, a lethal love
the cost of glowing.
Once you’ve held a hummingbird in your hand, it’s hard not to believe in God. You found her broken, a hit to the window, her fine wings pristine, it must have been her brain, you supposed something neurological that kept her falling to her side, listing off the perch you built for her in your nightstand jewelry box. You brought melons, and citrus fruit, a confetti of flowers for her to drink, she would want for nothing in your care, but fresh air and freedom.
You scooped her into your palm and had never felt such a fierce beat in such a wisp of weight, this hovering miracle who makes nests the size of thimbles, how impossibly alive you had nursed her with droplets of sugar water shaken from your thumb, convinced only of survival.
After you left him the first time for breaking your jaw, you said he was misunderstood. After he broke your jaw the third time, cracked every rib on your right side, you said this love was more than the highs and lows.
When the hummingbird stiffened in your hand, one second thrumming, the next still, you were sure there was more you could have done.
Kindra McDonald is the author of the books Fossils and In the Meat Years, (both in 2019) and the chapbooks Elements and Briars (2016) and Concealed Weapons, (2015). She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She is an Adjunct Professor of Writing and teaches poetry at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA. She serves as Regional VP of the Virginia Poetry Society and was the recipient of the 2020 Haunted Waters Press Poetry Award. She lives in the city of mermaids with her husband and cats where she bakes, hikes, and changes hobbies monthly.
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