Parable of the Flycatcher
Christopher Martin

                     Be ye a refuge to yourselves.

My grandfather says the flycatcher
has yet to nest in the box by the garden
at the edge of the woods,
the bird whose song
is a whistling weep.

I show him my field guide, point to the bird
for which he waits—Myiarchus crinitus,
little gray body, pollen yellow belly,
bearing a grasshopper in its beak.

He considers the words on the page:

Nests in old woodpecker holes,
            but can be attracted to boxes…
Often fills its nest with a collection of things:
fur, feathers, string, and snakeskins…

He says once he pulled
a snakeskin from the box
and it blew to dust
in his hand. 

On this porch overlooking blossoming dogwoods,
the violent ghosts of my grandfather’s past and my own
are at play in the trees, the scars of abuse and bloodshed
of the Korean War drifting in the breeze
like kingsnake scales.

You know them birds, he says, will use most anything
to build their nests. When I cut my hair,
I leave some for them in the grass.


Previously published in A Conference of Birds (New Native Press, 2012), and appeared again in Still: The Journal for a special “reprise” poetry section in the fall 2012 issue

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