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Impressions of a Bird Song

This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle

This poem first ran in the Fall 2013 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

Its wings spread wide,
feathers like spikes
to frighten or chide.

The eye shocks,
suddenly fierce.
With violent squacks

its cries pierce
twilight: it hurls
and chokes its curse

on impudent squirrels,
on sparrows, dumb
churls whose demurrals

free bread crumbs.
A man leans back,
laughing. He becomes

the sound it crackles,
the death-song of grackles.

Original bio from the Fall 2013 edition:

Ben LaVergne is surrounded by books he never reads. Now that he has a Kindle, he can ignore his unread library without ceasing.


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Death of a Cat


This poem first ran in the Autumn 2007 edition of Grub Street Grackle. It appears here online for the first time.

It’s not so much that I am grieving. That
would be an overstatement. Still there is
the blur of loss that flickers through my gut
whenever I recall the dead body
as I first found it this morning, stretched out
perfectly in the tall grass by the end
of my driveway. I picked her up not five
minutes after she died. She was still warm
and supple as only a cat can be.
My fingers massaged the back of her neck
absently while the policeman explained
that he had found our phone number (penned
by me just days before in case she should
get lost) on her red collar, which had come
off on impact and which was dangling now
from his outstretched hand. Six cats of his own
he said, so he could not just leave her there;
he called us from his squad car parked across
the street. I told him it was not his fault.

I carried her back to the house. Her eyes
were open but were utterly without
an animating light—dingy, opaque,
moisture evaporating rapidly.
In every other way, her beauty was
intact. Her fur was glossy black and rich
to touch, a pleasure for the hands. I felt
for broken bones but there were none, at least
that I could find. I don’t know how she died
if not by being crushed. Apparently
she misperceived the speed of death’s approach.
How strange, how sudden her mistake. Her mouth
was slightly open still, reminding me
of her peculiar trait of sticking out
her tongue—only the tip between her lips—
when she was content, lying in a lap
or napping in the sun. Her simple ways
were easy on us. She did not demand
anything, as her brother did and does.
He is more social than she ever was.
He follows us around the yard. He seems
honestly interested in the world
of men. He mews to be let in at all
the windows. His enthusiasm is
his charm. But charm has other faces too—
a quiet calm, a delicate approach,
a distant modesty—and these were hers.
I always thought that she would outlive him.

We buried her under a pine among
some other pines. The earth was cold and hard.
I had to dig with vigor in the clay
to make it deep enough. The broken roots
along the bottom held her there in place,
a place prepared for her. I know a cat
is just a cat and death is just a small
undoing of familiarity—
we are forever growing used to it.
I had grown used to her in one year and
a half. I will forget her in much less.
But in the disappearing now, she is
the shape of sorrow I have come to love.

Original bio from the Autumn 2007 edition:

Michael Larson lives in Winona, MN and has three (3) kids and one (1) wife. He is interested in monarchy, geocentrism, Zeno’s paradox, law, Aquinas, modernity, relativism, traditional Catholicism and many other things that he claims to have forgotten. His What We Wish We Knew (2005) is free if you already own it.


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Lay in a Deep Confusion

This poem first ran in the Autumn 2007 edition of Grub Street Grackle

The stone was in the ground, the body,
as though delivered from mere surface,
was out of sight; the unreflective
soil lay over it, and that was

For days, he bore it, grieving sorely
but not despairing; death, whose quiet
approach had more than once already
come near him, to his thinking was not

the thought was in the grave; it rested
with her, allaying discomposure,
as though by veiling it with knowledge
of what had laid her

But more than grief befell this mourner,
when some days later, after every
funereal sentiment was settled,
rain drenched her grave as much as any
place else, and stirred into the soil
and in his soul a muddy, heavy

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St. Sebastian

This poem first ran in the Sep/Oct 2006 edition of Grub Street Grackle.

This poem first ran in the Sep/Oct 2006 edition of Grub Street Grackle.

Trembled by the muscle’s clustered grip
On each shaft’s head, the sprouted wood began
A bird wing’s measured beat, as if to fan
The crisp air with the lifeblood’s giddy clip,
Pulsing the measured rhythm’s rise and dip,
And flapping the awkward scaffold of the man.
It wasn’t according to the archers’ plan,
To place, symmetrically, two at each hip,
Two buried in the ribs, and the last two
Odd-angling from the shoulders. Nor could they
Deny the strange result: With each drawn breath,
The white plumed arrows, arced in just that way,
Fluttered, grotesque with grace, bearing, in death
The youth on terrible wings, too wildly true.

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Imagine Dallas

The Grackle is a production of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Imagine Dallas Literary Arts, Inc.