The Nuthatches | Tricia Knoll

Image: Nikita Nikitenko

The Nuthatches

I pretend the red-breasted nuthatches
know what you might have said beneath
the plum tree last spring before your cell
phone rang and you took the call that said
your mother had only hours left
to live so you ran to your Subaru
and took off for Boston and left me
holding the thread of a message
that might have been only connection
and which I wanted to be love,
the kind of love that makes
swallows dive and nuthatches
hang upside down.

Now these little birds flit about
in winter’s snow, back and forth
above where we sat on a blue fleece
blanket, and they tweet what you haven’t,
that you miss me and will get back as soon
as you can. You have had the estate
to manage for your wayward sister
and her addictions which you feel
responsible for now that neither of you
have a parent, no one in the old house
to hold things together.

Your family tree snapped.
Your sister floated off like letters
let go into the wind. Invoices
you never intend to pay. The sketch
you made of me with my blouse
hanging off my shoulder
when the sun’s warmth gave me
hope that you felt the same
correspondence I do; we are meant
to be together. And my breast
was warm, wanting to be touched;
breast cancer took her. Maybe
your genes are faulty.

Those little birds continue our talk
in the crotch of the trees.
Bluejays push them away
from the feeder, but they return
all flibbertigibbet, so here
I’ve drawn a nuthatch
on a postcard and colored the breast pink
to say spring will come again and
I am still here for you, hearing
nuthatches tuck away what they need
for later.

Tricia Knoll is an aging poet living alone in the woods in Vermont on the unceded land of the Abenaki. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her recent collection Checkered Mates (Kelsay Books) focuses on relationships that work and those that don’t. Website: triciaknoll.com

Twitter: @triciaknollwind

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