Northern Mockingbird by Rae Hoffman
That one bird,
the one that sounds like a broken
bicycle tire—visible for only the brief moment
mom leans her head back to exhale
an extravagant billow of smoke.
The bird with the legs of two aluminum nails.
The bird we watch together from the porch,
mom’s hands the size of sycamore leaves,
waving as they do when she talks,
eclipsing the sun, me, the bird
that had no name for 28 years.
The bird I mistook for a violin
before I knew what a violin was.
The bird that knows a hundred notes for “home,”
but not one for “yesterday.”
That bird, louder though smaller
than the others. That bird singing
with the coyotes at night.
That bird feasting on the worms
of tomorrow tomorrow, circling the yard
once, twice, three times over
like history repeating itself.
The bird that unless you searched for
would hardly know is there.
That bird always coming back.
That bird watching my mother smoke
and not the other way around.
That bird’s seen some shit.
That bird’s seen it all, actually,
from atop the garage, the fence,
the bedroom window, through the canopy
and still—it neither loves nor hates—
anything bird with no choice,
no tree, no voice of its own
but the echoes of a wheel
it somehow can’t forget.
© Rae Hoffman
Rae Hoffman studied under the word-drunk poet Albert Goldbarth. She won the 2016 New Voice Award out of Salina, Kansas, and has previously been published in Ambit, Leveler, Arsenic Lobster, and Rivet—to name a few. When she is not writing, she is watching her pug eat inedible objects, taking bathroom graffiti too seriously, and pretending each moment is a match next to a bucket of kerosene.
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