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David B. Prather

The Avian Problem

On the Eve of All Hell

The Avian Problem

Robins and jays and starlings
take every cherry from the mangled tree,
its black and decrepit limbs
tangled into bundles of nerves
like an aviary
noisy with a hundred wars.

Strawberries are safe
beside the shed.  We can’t even begin
to guess why.  The raspberries are low
enough to cover.  On the new vines
the berries are larger, darker,
sweeter.  This contradicts everything
we remember, last year, the year before that,
and the year before that.

A neighbor tells us in the skin-warm afternoon
that when he shingled the roof
a wren or a sparrow attacked him.
He says birds go crazy, especially the small ones,
trying to protect their young.
Hell, he says, we all do.

It’s gotten so a cat can’t even sleep in peace
on the front porch.  There is always temptation.
Even the advantage of wings is never as safe
as we think it should be.

Birds start pecking holes in the pears.
It’s never been this bad before;
we don’t know what to do.
We sit in the house and listen,
trying to name the culprits,

but the wind is too strong.
The leaves are too brittle.
Squirrels are back in the attic
scaring off pigeons.
We are invariably distracted
and worried that the world will disappear
while we read the evening paper.

Above us, great flocks of blackbirds
disperse into darkness.  Evening is the giant
wing of the universe.  We will sleep with our hunger
and wake in the shadows of trees.

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On the Eve of All Hell

Drink up.
The night is done.

That last slug of whisky is the sweetest
because it’s the kiss that has to persist.

No romance, just a risky one-night stand.
Open the door and step out

into the darkness of the universe.
The blur of stars is ancient

and makes us all feel old.
Streetlight shadows stretch out

across the parking lot,
supplicants to their drunken gods.

Forget the car.
Just walk home.

Take the alleys and the less traveled roads
to avoid the cops.

Every footstep taps out
an ancient rhythm

across the sidewalks and asphalt.
This ain’t no way to sin(g) in the rain.

There’s no singing.  There’s no rain.
As a matter of fact,

there’s been no rain for days.
Looks like someone didn’t pay the piper.

Someone didn’t tithe to Indra or Tlaloc
or some other deity of the rain.

(Someone didn’t spend the night with their lover.)

Feral cats hiss at any threat, and the bugs of the evening
get caught up in the passion of chasing wild sprays of light.

This town has gone dizzy with vertigo and euphoria.
Stop for just a moment and think about the next breath,

and the next.
Open the door

and drag that sorry ass inside.
Shut the door tighter than when you left.

Shut out the sun that will surely rise.
Shut out the unhappy sounds of day.

Sleep it off, if you must.
Dreams will surely find their sobering way.

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David B. Prather received his MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College.  His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Colorado Review, Seneca Review, Prairie Schooner, The American Journal of Poetry, American Literary Review, Poet Lore, South Florida Poetry Journal, Kestrel, The Furious Gazelle, ONTHEBUS, and others.  His work was also selected for one of Naomi Shihab Nye's anthologies, "what have you lost?"  Currently, David spends his time as an actor and a director at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg in Parkersburg, WV.

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