Poetry Issue #70



I searched for your yellow bodies,
your cup-shaped nest in which you
tried to raise your babies –
four, now scattered
in the grass. A fifth, nearby,
on the sidewalk; its body melting
into the concrete.


You were new parents. Maybe not
first-timers, but these chicks –
not even two weeks old:
heads with bald spots,
white tufts sprout like eyebrows;
dull backs sandwiched
by black-olive striped wings
speckled with pin feathers;
a bundle of waxy shafts to bloom into tails.


Someone had placed them
in a cardboard box, covered the top
with a poly bag. They sat, quivering,
on an old towel and t-shirt
splattered with droppings.


By Thursday, another death.
It lay on its side (beak, eyes closed)
in one corner – isolated.
Storms shook the air late that evening;
fear that Friday would bring
further fatalities.


Under a cloudless blue sky,
in breeze-swept grass: a beige box
full of life, life, life.
One, an open mouth and
vibrating wings. Another, now
atop unmoving Sibling.
A Third, peeping alongside Another
as I grabbed Sibling, tucked
the body amongst dewy green.


In the front seat of the car,
three silent passengers
soon to be patients.
Prognosis: they are alive,
they will survive


I Keep Asking Myself

When will I learn I have no right
to count the seconds between a lightning strike
and the rumble of thunder that follows
so lovingly like a child their parent;

to pluck (one at a time) the petals, the pistil,
the stamen, the sepals from a gladiolus
and discard the stem amongst them–
withering puzzle pieces under the mid-August sun;

to tenderly break a branch (stopping just) before it separates,
to examine the smooth sinew within and the way
the wood clings to itself, unwilling to be severed–
how the setting sun lingers at the edge of the horizon;

to shout at the vultures with the innards of roadkill
between breaks, with bloody fur glued to claws,
even though I know that those placed in caskets
and given proper burials are still stripped of themselves;

to yell at the wren who serenades the garage doors,
desperate to open them and fly to the nest
where his mate sits on their eggs: it is foolish
to build a life somewhere that cannot sustain you;

to step on an ant crawling towards me, twist
my shoe on the concrete and spread
its insides like paint on a canvas before I walk away,
aware of the guts on my sole.

Oh, mother (please) forgive me.
I am but one second among trillions,
and soon I will be part of the ground
on which I now stand.



Do birds ever have existential crises?
Does a chickadee gaze into
the water (dotted by raindrops) in a birdbath,
consider a warped reflection in the rippled surface?
Do they ever question, mid-flight, if they are going in
the right direction?
Do they have a favorite backyard – tree –
branch? Or a favorite kind
of seed or berry?
Do they ever feel lonely?

Do they know we (I) envy them?
How we must seem: Giants, lumbering
(flightless) through this world; who peer          at them
through binoculars, capture their likeness on paper,
and film; even record their sweet songs.
Do they know we have named them? In two separate ways?
Genus species; Common name.
Have they done the same?

Could I be Poecile atricapillus?
During winter, I enter regulated
hypothermia to preserve energy; I frequent
the trees I stuffed with seeds during summer
to fortify my then-future self.
In spring, when I sit on my eggs, I drop
my feathers so my bare belly touches the shells,
warmth seeping into them.
These chicks will hatch, beaks piercing the
shells that have allowed them grow,
and enter this world –
the knowledge of building a nest already theirs


The Lifespan of a Death

It begins with the death itself –

The brain tucks each and every organ
into bed, kisses them on the soft glabella,
strokes their foreheads with their thumbs – palm
resting on cheekbone – and tells them to cease
their worrying, to close their eyes; the way a mother
might comfort her child, terrified of the figure
they saw in the corner of their bedroom
when lightning flashed and
momentarily overtook darkness – even though
the mother has seen that figure before.

Soon after comes the pain –
not for the dead, but for the ones
whose blood still pumps through their veins,
whose eyes dance fervently with vessels.
Any plans for the day unravel
like a half-knitted scarf, and in the days
that follow, you trip over the yarn
you cannot bring yourself
to pick up; the yarn, shapeless, draped
over furniture and taut between table legs.
Sleepless and full of mourning,
you soothe your aching throat
with tea hot enough that a small sip
lights up your tongue.
You build cities at dinner,
stacking and compacting food
in the top left-hand part of your plate.
Your eyes produce tears
like spiders produce silk,
and you have begun to weave your webs
in the most inconvenient places.
Gossamer skin draped over bones,
you are still surprised when you
look in the mirror: you, hollow, without
organs, tissues, blood.
How else would you explain
that things don’t feel right
and they won’t until they do,
won’t ever be the same
until they are.


How to Keep Going

My skin does not always feel like it is properly stretched
across my skeleton. I cannot fault it – the number of times
it has asked my blood to undergo hemostasis, to erase
the purple-blue, yellow-brown splotches from itself.
Once, my skull tried to kiss a knife-sharp corner wall.
A straight line runs (off-center) down
my forehead – a reminder of when my blood wept
down the pale drywall.
Once, red drops drizzled onto sunbaked asphalt;
into my cupped, raw hands that hovered (cradled
and shaking) below my chin as brush burn danced
across my palms and chest – (again,) stitches decorated
my skin, then my body reminded me of how I harmed it:
tissue that blossomed like fire lilies.

Often, I have thought about how I might
reduce myself to nothing.
I am broken earth, cracked and crumbling,
pieces of me carried away by breezes and gales alike.
I have been pleading with the skies for rain
to mend my fissures, but each day I watch the sun
travel across the cloudless blue sky.
There is only one way forward:
I will sit on the powerlines
and wait for the storm to come

By Ali Gipson

Ali writes to magnify the beauty in ordinary moments, reflect on her relationship with the natural world, and explore her mental health, identity, and sexuality. A native Pittsburgher with a BA from Seton Hill University, she has more than a dozen publications in Parhelion Literary Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Sampsonia Way, among others.