* * *
I hear splatters of dark wings emptying
into bushes. She perches, on thinned crisp
bones, waiting for my eyes to avert before
trusting that open spaces are safer
than confining ones.
She is a small bird, edged by any sound,
any light from the outside flashes like
pupils. She waits to speak and cuts
her feathers against sharp leaves
rather than trust.
There are no nests made for her, none
big enough. Flying all night until she wakes
is her sleep, feigning recognition of a place
and people until she scares herself back
Too familiar with fear, too familiar with
memories that dislodge it in her throat
to make it come up, up, out, out, into
the world she is trying to exist in and pretend
there are enough pieces of
to make sense. In that bush, she waits and
hopes that enough of her sharp beak will slice
through doorways she tries to lock; that enough
of her dark wings will suffice to surprise an onlooker
* * *
Walking in the Woods
When you see something moving
in the trees, is it above or within?
Ask yourself: how far is it
to the edge? Where do I stop
and hide? The movement rattles
but also sniffs—is it deadly?
At which budding leaf might
it get too dark to see?
I hear a voice say things like,
“You’re not meant to see yet”
as the dry trunks snap together
in heavy winds—painful to hear
but not unusual. I tell the trees
things like, “I can’t find the path,
so you’re going to have to get me
I don’t see the hawk I was
looking for—in fact, I may have
seen the shadow of its corpse
lying under that fallen birch—
but when the twisted branches
snag my skin and pull me
into my natural form, that’s okay.
At least I’m led out.
* * *
Maggie Swofford is a queer poet who loves outer space, fashion, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolors. She is the winner of Serpentine’s “I’m Speaking” Poetry Contest, and has poems published or forthcoming in Mazing, Fathom, Serpentine, The Curator, Agapanthus Collective, and Second Chance Lit. Maggie also works in marketing for a publishing company in Boston, MA.