The National Poetry Review

Jennifer Stewart Miller


The bird by the water’s edge—
still alive

the first day my mother found it.
As she moved it into grass

above the tide line,
she was surprised

by the struggle still in it.

Come see how beautiful it is,
you should see

how beautiful
it is—

White feathery crest
on black head, elongate

dark beak, a hint of teeth.
Smallish body shaped like a dory.

Nearly eighty-five, my mother
gently turns the bird on its back—

black, with white breast, a fringe
of brown—

spreads the wings open
like a trench coat.

Our stolen look:
grey/white feathers

strung in three or maybe four rows.
Longest on the bottom.

This, their last flight.
My mother’s blue eyes

are a version of sky.
She wishes for a taxidermist.

I wish for a taxidermist.
Am I one?

My mother
re-pleats the wings.

   An acrostic

Muffled against your twilight blue suit,
one hand on your shoulder, one curled
tight as ivy around your back, I’m swaying
here on the dance floor, alone with you for
ever—three whole minutes of it—and yes
recollecting everything, and not much, and yes,
son, I’m weeping, and yes, so too, my boy, my
oldest, so are you—I warned you, didn’t I,
no matter how many times I played this
damn country song I wept—The Chicks,
and Godspeed, little man, godspeed not a drop of
nuance, pure sweetness, these lyrics, your
cheek against my hair—hiding nothing,
either of us. All the honey we hive.

JENNIFER STEWART MILLER’s book Thief (2021) won the 2020 Grayson Books Poetry Prize. She is also the author of A Fox Appears: A Biography of a Boy in Haiku (2015), and The Strangers Burial Ground (Seven Kitchens Press 2020). Her poems have received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology nominations and appeared lately in Kestrel, The Night Heron Barks, RHINO, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.

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