Steven Kunert, of Corvallis, Oregon, has been writing and publishing his poetry and prose for over 40 years. He previously published poems in Dead Snakes in 2014.
I was about eight when the young hawk
died in Mother’s hands, and she said
Death always hangs there
but life always hovers higher.
Later, she fed a fallen cedar waxwing nestling
from an eyedropper filled with orange juice and apple mush,
while in a cage next to her
a once lame sparrow chirped, I’m ready.
I saw them come, injured or half dead.
I saw them fly again or go to the dirt
in our yard, where she always put those.
One day I pointed to a robin’s feather
rising from under the soil.
No worry, she said. It will go up
or it will stay down. Either way, you’ll be fine.
The Old Poet Said
You don’t know where you’re going
when you start, but never to some planet
still and silent and without air.
Doing a poem, doing a life,
is encountering a succession of impulses
and perceptions and surprising thoughts
upon simple encounters. Take the quiet,
then realize you are different from other people,
how you treat all things like the purpose of breathing.
Take the quiet, then write because you need to gut someone,
drill into their soul, kill their hates.
Take the quiet, and some undisturbed current
of your life will make its way into the interval
between the pencil you hold and fingers that strum time.
Take the quiet, see the first words
your subconscious calm puts down,
and watch them go, maybe even veer
into some doing paper never knew.
The Young Authoress
Her mother complained she was too self-important,
and her Dad said, Lord save you.
Her brother called her a weirdo
and her sister stressed: don’t show me.
Her best friend didn’t get it,
her cousin Gina suggested therapy
and her boyfriend shrugged, whatever.
Uncle Jim said, you’re pretty darn good
but then I’m no expert,
while Aunt Emily preached that God
expects much more from you.
Grandma said, help me, dear, with this,
and Grandpa had no comment.
Her self-inflicted wound delved
unexpectedly as her final note,the coroner wrote.