The ladder tilted. I took a deep
slow breath, stood very still, then stomped—
and drove the taller leg, for balance,
into the rain-soaked earth. For weeks,
two mockingbirds had nested there,
under a loose board in my eaves.
For weeks, I’d wakened to jay shrieks,
crow calls, and something like a mad
electric pulse—tchak! tchak!—that drilled
into my nerves. For weeks, I dreamed
of my teeth breaking in my mouth.
Now, barefoot, poised on the top rung,
I groped above my head, raked out
gray ashy lumps of dung, twigs, feathers—
and four blue eggs speckled with brown.
Wind blew the light trash back. It drifted
down my shirt collar, stuck in my hair.
Wings blasted near my face. I flinched.
The ladder shifted and I wondered,
absurdly, if I would miss the birds’
crazed voices howling through my house
like ghosts. I nailed the loose board shut
and smacked it with my palm. It boomed.
I eased down off the tilted ladder.
The clean house settled into silence.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 9 Number 4, on page 44
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