On Magnolia Avenue there are no magnolias. Someone bought
the house of the one survivor. All morning I heard the chainsaw
sever its limbs from root to bud. No more scattered flowers, star city.
No pink galaxy. Now the yard is a parking space, one Jeep SUV,
one older car. Next door a woman comes out, late afternoon,
a child in her arms. She speaks low, as if there’s just the two of them.
She says to him, Listen to the little birdies, and he listens to
the common sparrows talking in the hedge. He listens as they argue
back and forth, their dialect of nature, as the street clatters with commuters
taking a shortcut home. She says: Listen. And he turns his head to follow
the fugitive motion, the small streaked wings unfolding, folding,
the relentless chirp from a tiny blunt beak, the sound almost within reach.
Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Learning to Talk” from The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Used with the permission of the author.
Source: The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003)