I emerge from my house, an ocean of breeze in every tree, sun at every corner, fledglings flocking the garden each the size of a thumb. Gray & tiny, one becomes disoriented as I walk past. I speak to her in a soft tone but she turns herself on her back desperate to right tiny talons & downy feathers. She jumps down stair after stair towards the garage until she lands at the bottom. I gentle my voice as she chirps to the other sparrows nesting in roof shingles. I leave hoping her mama will help when I am gone, but in a few hours when I return, she is still at the bottom step, alone & I think orphan like me in the dark corner what will I do to carry God into these stairs? I knock on my neighbor's door, my neighbor who once drove twenty miles to bring two hummingbird chicks to sanctuary after their mother didn't return to nest. My neighbor coaxes the baby sparrow inside a box, her halo tender & kind while the mama flies above our heads to keep us away. We carry the box to the front garden of recently planted geraniums & purple sedum & blue dymondium grasses—beauty we've ordained to contain sorrow. We leave the sparrow chick to a flurry of feathers & chirrup & trill. She remains planted, but eventually (and this is when I finally let the breath out of my lungs) she flies away. A dozen sparrows fly to the trees above me—cacophony of chirp & breeze at the neck, branches dancing against blossom. The sparrows are saying thank you, their chorus an amen to my prayer. They know as I know in every breath I could not possibly bear
one more loss.
You Don't Have to Be Good
What I'm asking is when will they stop murdering little girls decomposing bodies under scrub brush, teddy bears yards away, blood rope burns necks twisted I'm with my niece surrounded by spruce & black oak, a sky as blue as lapis, the patter of unseen deer and mice a soft trill through the forest. Kate has planted herself across the yellow line
on a private road, the ascent too much for her defiant bones, arms crossed, three-year-old legs splayed, body secured to pavement. I won't move unless you carry me. Her father had promised to meet us but he hasn't shown so I try every trick whoever makes it to the top first wins but nothing's working. Unable to lift or carry her, in my fear and desperation to keep her safe, imagining a car around the bend splattering the last bits of her across asphalt, I throw out the only card I have left—I know you are such a good girl you'll get up right now and walk with me. Why did I ever think that would work on my niece, all vinegar & obstinate blood, her determination a sport of Olympic proportions & when her response comes through lungs at full volume, steady and sure — I. Am. Not. A. Good. Girl — face red, spittle around lips, I know the answer to my question. I can feel the souls of all the murdered girls converged & dancing their skinned knees purple tennis shoes red ribbons whooshing. I know this moment is transformational that the soft chemistry of my DNA has been altered that Kate is the unknown X the equation solved. This child, the culmination of genetic strands reaching back to the beginning of time has given me permission to express the full texture of my being. I am certain there are others like her blooming all over the country, the season is now. I move down the road to the bend, breathe in the scent of sage & wild currant on the breeze, alert to flag any vehicle, letting Kate decide when she's ready & when she's willing to head up the road.
Alicia Elkort's poetry has been published in AGNI, Arsenic Lobster, Black Lawrence Press, Georgia Review, Heron Tree, The Hunger Journal, Menacing Hedge, Rogue Agent, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Tinderbox Poetry Journal as well as many others. Her poems have been nominated for the Orisons Anthology (2016), the Pushcart (2017), and A Best of the Net (2018). Alicia has recently become a reader for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and in addition, will go to great lengths for a great cup of black tea and a cool breeze.