by Mark Neely

May not be rare but I’m the bird of Illinois,
Indiana, five other states to boot.
I shake my mottle, stink, flutter,
and squeak an off-key song — a grave noise
like your oldest smoker saying wheat.
You have to have the nose for it or ear,
the eyes for it, one for each flap of your hat.
It’s under there you keep requirements
for houses, for the dolls your daughters plead
for on your holiday — you paint it red,
right, and huff around in green sweaters.
That’s how you celebrate your noble dead?
I flash lung blood against the sky instead
or kindle in the brush like furious desire.

Mark Neely‘s poetry and fiction have appeared in Boulevard, Diagram, decomP, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His manuscript Four of a Kind won the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest and will be out in Fall 2010. He teaches at Ball State University and is the co-editor of The Broken Plate.

Editor’s note: “Cardinal” is reprinted here. It first appeared in Perigee.

Back to Issue Seven: Spring 2010