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The Small Birds of Sound

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State of Alabama v. Robert E. Chambliss, 1977

When they come
filling the yard with their overheard,

broke-glass catastrophes of voice,
overcrowded party line,

he lets the screen door clap
to see them plume

the settle back to the fence,
aftershocks of crowd and wail.

When they come
he says again he was home at breakfast

radio preacher doing love thy neighbor
and then the bomb,

just ask the wife.
The silence

in the TV's cathode glow
slowly fills with questions

as starlings shutter light
then weigh the lines, voices

tangled in their claws.

They had him buying dynamite,
a case he says he passed along,

then the other's car behind the church,
four men dome-lit in early dark.

Now all they have is years
of brag and noise and alibi,

a quiet
in which the trail's confused.

At times it seemed he wasn't real,
that he was no one,

a story everyone had heard,
just not the end,

that he was different men,
one arm with a bomb,

another making calls
miles outside of town,

a fog, an exhalation,
scattering when seen.

Jake Adam York, "The Small Birds of Sound" from A Murmuration of Starlings. Copyright © 2008 by Jake Adam York.  Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.
Source: A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)
The Small Birds of Sound

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