Birding While Black
I know the pigeon’s bloodshot eye. Smoky feathers.
How it roosts along the buildings’ edges. Waddles
when it walks. I know the difference between blue
bird’s black wingtips and blue jay’s checkered tail.
I know the thrasher’s frantic folly when I see it.
The cardinal’s scarlet overcoat. The raven’s velvety
down. How the flash and flutter of wings distract
from view. How the marvel of flight frees the mind
from its cages. How the birdsong conjures an ancient
tune calling back the oceans over which we’ve crossed
and believing legend over which some of us flew.
Strange to find a simple structure standing where Tamir once played.
How peaceful it appears beneath shimmering shades of maple trees
surrounding it fully bloomed. Pockmarked cement slabs line a cobblestone
walkway leading to its center. Not dissimilar to footsteps caught in wet
concrete heavy as grief. Yet it isn’t tragedy we dwell upon. But the boy.
His unnecessary absence. His silly laughter disturbing the clouds. Running
haphazard and carefree through the park. Skipping sidewalk cracks real
and imagined. That hideous children’s game. The toy gun. The quick
trigger cop who can’t discern a child from a grownup. How he rises each
day. Shaves his murderous face in the mirror without slicing his skin to shreds.
Without slitting his fucking throat.
Venus Thrash is a co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She is the author of the poetry collection The Fateful Apple (Hawkins Publishing, 2014), nominated for the 2015 Pen America Open Book Award. Her poetry has been published in Public Pool, Torch, The Arkansas Review, and in the anthology Resisting Arrest: Poems That Stretch the Sky. Thrash is the recipient of a 2016 writer’s residency at The Vermont Studio Center. She’s a co-director of the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series, a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a Summer Seminar in Kenya and Fire and Ink scholar. She is a full-time writer and mom.