From the Archive: Claire Caldwell (CAROUSEL 28)

Staff/ October 13, 2020/ Poem


The Summer of Dead Birds

It was the summer of cold hands.
We played bingo in the afternoons,
sipping cups of warm beer.

It kept the birds out.

The bartender slipped us sunflower seeds
in packets. They’ll grow in August, she said,
fingers flapping. Our mouths too full
to reply.

The bird didn’t know it was being rescued,
the girl said. She hadn’t counted on the hot
struggle between cupped hands,
the bird twisting through its brokenness,
forgetting it at the sight of sky.

She hadn’t counted on that last, desperate
lunge. If it had known, she said, why
would it not have chosen to be saved

A night animal was leaving birds
at dawn, on my doorstep. That summer
I braided feathers through my hair:
I was in love. I was an
aviary. Each morning I rose
to the smell of pacing. I dug up
the garden and planted
the birds. I waited for rain.
I waited for August.

Nothing grew.

She said, cup your hands. Blow
into them


Claire Caldwell is a writer, a children’s book editor at Annick Press, and a kids’ writing workshop facilitator. Her debut poetry collection, Invasive Species (Wolsak and Wynn), was named one of The National Post’s top five poetry books of 2014. Her second book of poetry, Gold Rush, was published by Invisible Books in 2020. Claire was a 2016 writer in residence at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, and the 2013 winner of The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. She has an MFA from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto. More: here

The Summer of Dead Birds
appeared in CAROUSEL 28 (2012) — buy it here

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