DAVID B. PRATHER

★ ★ ★ ★

POETRY

Image by Kent Pilcher

PROVENANCE

Everything begins here. And by here,
I mean this house, my house.

And to be precise, I mean the kitchen
where the morning sun rouses from the floor.

And to be perfectly honest, I mean the faucet
where cool drops of water leave calcium

residue on the spigot, where centuries pass,
and cave formations care nothing for time,

which comes from a distant source, a waterfall
on an earth-like planet scarred

with ancient wounds. And by wounds,
I mean every love you’ve ever lost.

And by lost, I mean a quiet room
that no one visits,

a stir of dust motes through fingers of light,
a clock on the wall stopped at 4:16,

regardless of what you think you know.
But to be clear, air thins

the further it reaches
toward the stars. To be understood,

we should walk out of here, walk
into the streets and into the fields.

We should reach up to the heavens,
And by heavens, I mean home.

JOURNAL ENTRY: THOSE WHO STAY BEHIND

            Finally, a phoebe shows up
on my backyard fence. With a name
            like that, I imagine veils
and silk feathers, lustrous as mother-
            of-pearl. The second
breeding season is over, two clutches,
            sixteen days to hatchlings,
sixteen more to fledge. Dun, yes,
            that’s a good word
for her. Dun. I don’t know what
            makes me think this bird
is female. Possibly a newly discovered
            freedom. Possibly
a wild precision for catching insects
            mid-flight. There’s a look
about this bird I attribute to my mother.
            Her song I attribute to
a young woman transformed by an
            unruly god. Some of
those gods are here now. I’ve been
            trying to discourage them
gathering near the spearmint at the end
            of my driveway.
They wait for me to come home every
            night. Above us,
a turkey vulture skims the sky, which
            I’ve always thought
meant death was near. But, today,
            flight is simply
an expression of joy, tempting the pallid
            clouds to reach down,
join the exaltation. When my parents
            divorced, my mother
became a different person, which made me
            different, too. Migration
will begin soon, but some birds will remain,
            survive on whatever gets
left behind. I’ve left behind so much.
            I know there’s something
supernatural hiding among the unripe apples,
            and maybe that’s why
the phoebe is here. Soon, the world will
            be left to cardinal,
jay, and crow. Soon, even without leaves,
            trees will lean
into the sun, nostalgic, unsettled.

David B. Prather is the author of WE WERE BIRDS, his first collection of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, The Literary Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, and several others. He studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, and he studied writing at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

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