“Grackles” – Poetry by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Purple Grackle or Common Crow Blackbird - John James Audubon, circa 1830
Purple Grackle or Common Crow Blackbird – John James Audubon, circa 1830

“Grackles” is one of five pieces contributed by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens to our Winter 2015 issue, a kind of epilogue to her series of poems on Joan of Arc.

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ROBERTO RAVEN CIRCLES THE BATTLEFIELD, waits for the logs and squares to stop shaking and gurgling. Opposite of Quick Care, the beaks seek grossness, go to the quiet ones first. Little silver boxes squirm in the grass. Two argue in the sky If someone is dead, do you say “I love” or “I loved.” Birds are just addicts who come to any gathering for the free coffee.  The buzzing molecules won’t stop mowing science down. New diagrams of buzzards break open encyclopedias. No one has any ears to hear the panting and murdered ecology. Put your energy into this field project management. Weed, mow, pluck, fertilize. Goats are good at bloodletting. Harvest the forearms and flies. You can tell how old something is by the smell. Roberto, the only feathered Italian in France at the time, is outnumbered by the xenophobic blackbirds. Christopher chipmunk’s only interest is nuts. Roberto is pissed and finds his voice again in the sky: message my wing beats in screams and piercing darkness through round orbital messages in a bottle. Christopher and Roberto are too scary to be illustrated properly. Real life never stops pulsing long enough for a proper water color. Roberto refuses to blind the corpses. A prisoner in another camp looks east, the morning bells ring. Armor a memory like the ocean.

And it’s over a thousand years later and we are back on the banks of the Seine, opening a bottle of wine with a corkscrew, loosening hiking boots. Telling each other about our small steps every fucking day.

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AuthorphotoJENNIFER MacBAIN-STEPHENS is the author of three chapbooks: Every Her Dies (ELJ Publications), Clotheshorse (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming, 2014), and Backyard Poems (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming, 2015). Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared in public places in Iowa City. Recent work can be seen / is forthcoming at Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Blue Hour, The Golden Walkman, Split Rock Review, Toad Suck Review, Red Savina Review, The Poetry Storehouse, and Hobart. For a complete list of publications and other odds and ends, visit JenniferMacBainStephens.wordpress.com 

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