There’s a male cardinal in the yard of our rented house
who molts his red Mohawk in the spring.
I see the ear holes in his black, ashy head.
He feeds a smaller female.
I call him The Old King.
On the way to Food Lion,
the train horn massages my heart,
persistent like a cat kneading.
The train talks about its other towns,
squawks honestly like a lonely child.
I sometimes feel death
trying to throw a blanket over us
as if we were an unruly fire.
When I buy sunflower seeds for the feeder
I remember the injured blackbird in elementary school.
When I brought it a dish of granola,
our cat Mia had feathers splayed stiff in her jaw,
an inky, jerking fan.
I know your grocery list by heart:
cheddar, tuna, pistachios, Earl Gray, olives.
Now we’re looking to buy a home
for a while
and I feel guilty about taking the bird feeder away.
We’ll sign a deed and become
the caretakers of a great brick beast
a rusted red rectangular whale —
Julia Travers is a writer, artist, and teacher in Virginia. Her work has been shared with OnBeing and Heron Tree Poetry Journal, among other publications. Find her at jtravers.journoportfolio.com and on Twitter @traversjul.