Kellelynne H. Riley
Blackbird

Over the furrows of the northern field—
a coded flash of blackbird wings.

Memory bursts from the hedgerows:
a pair of girls in skirts and knee socks
and weed-flowered hair,

a fawn
decomposing in the ditch, wired
to a slab of plywood,
tattered pelt on thin bones.

How to make sense of those rusted nails
thrust into gangling newborn limbs
to keep her in place?

Our ribcages locked. Even at eight we knew
men.

Target practice,
one of us said, nodding matter-of-factly,
but our fingers twined and knotted
and our thighs trembled.

Over the furrows of the northern field—
a coded flash of blackbird wings.

We grew
from the plowed earth, two women
in a field of women with crimson poppy eyes,
knowing those small tender things that disappear
in daylight,

knowing the way rough hands thrust deep
into hidden dens, twist and bind a heart upright
while it still beats, and toss back a six-pack
before firing the first round.

Over the furrows of the northern field —
a coded flash of blackbird wings

while heaven holds salvation in reserve.

This poem appears in our Fall 2013 issue (Vol. 60.1).

Kellelynne H. Riley lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared on the “Bound Off” podcast and in journals including Flashquake, Poetry Quarterly, and Plasma Frequency.