Sheila-Na-Gig online


Jessica Barksdale


You hate the tree the neighbors
allowed to grow wild between the houses.
Thin and spindly—barely a tree at all—it unfurls
its scraggly umbrella to whisk both roofs.
Lazy, deciduous, it drops
pollen, leaves, fat handfuls
of storm-spewn black berries,
seedlings sprouting in seconds,
green terrors latching into the wet earth, ready to burst
into rows of scraggly hedges.

Your neighbors are bad gardeners; they refuse to share
fence repairs and water late at night,
sprinklers shuddering.
Your own gardener does not
pay attention to the berry bunches
clumped in the agapanthus, rhododendrons, persimmon.
Every spring morning, you scurry and sweep,
pull and pluck, cursing
under your breath.

Today, through an upstairs window,
a swoosh and flurry. The privet
bends and shivers,
heavy with more than its own dark fruit.
On every branch, a glimmer of soft pale brown, yellow,
slash of black-masked eye, red-tipped wing.
A flock of ravenous cedar waxwings rock the tree, swaying fat
on the treetop, eating the blessed berries,
whirling with bird joy and ferocity at the sudden bounty.
You crouch at the sill, hand to mouth, blood whirring
like the birds, who hate no one, no

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