"This work is unlike any other, in its range of rich, conjuring imagery and its dexterity, its smart voice. Carroll-Hackett doesn’t spare us—but doesn’t save us—she draws a blueprint of power and class with her unflinching pivot: matter-of-fact and tender." —Jan Beatty

The Birds of Grief

This week I keep going back to a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, about grief, about sheer physicality of grief and loss. About feeling helpless. About how loss, no matter what, belongs to all of us. 

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I Want to Bring the Birds

inside, hold them in my hands, tuck them inside my shirt, claws and all, feel the sharp tic of each frightened beak, surround them with my fingers, cradle them against the cage of my ribs, whisper shh shh shh—until they each find and linger in their place: the titmice tatting nests into my hair, crested sparrows and juncos perched and singing from my feet, the jays who see me as so much meat, supplier of suet and otherwise foolish and useless, each take a shoulder, their alarm squawk sudden and hard as a couple of crows stand sentry on my back. The chickadees, those flying golf balls with their punk rock eyes and ebony mohawks, bossy and brazen, take my ears, letting me know just how they see this whole thing going, while the shy nuthatch hides, its cinnamon shadow disappearing under my shirt as it hops up my ribs and nuzzles in like a newborn near my heart. A pair of doves, and then another, their wings ash gray and spotted with apricot, nestle in on the soft give of my belly; I touch them with just the tips of my fingers, hoping, praying, they’ll teach me the tender songs only possible in the dark. One by one, they all settle in, on my limbs, my skin, feathering, resting, and maybe, so will I, settle for real, for the first time in years, as I hear and feel their heartbeats steady, slow, ease finally, into a companion rhythm with my own. Or mine to theirs? In my dreams, it doesn’t matter. In my dreams,we are the same.

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This poem is included in my collection The Night I Heard Everything from FutureCycle Press

birds of grief

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