Virginia Barrett

The Birds Come Back Each Year

Punk-tattooed tough-looking, my neighbor startles
me standing in my patio when I arrive in the late
afternoon. The black flesh tunnels stretching both
his lobes show the gray sky through them as he

looks up at the eaves under his stairs leading down
here. The blue jay yanked out two of the fledglings
from the nest the juncos return to each year. There’s
always this springtime battle between the birds and

they never fail to drag us into it. In his growly smoker’s
voice my neighbor assures me he got the babies back
in the nest using my ladder, but he’s worried they won’t
survive. I barely touched them but you know, birds

don’t like the scent of human. This is the most I’ve seen
him in a year, since last April when the birds were at
it again and he kept vigil. He’s not aware of how much
I hear of what goes on upstairs. The monthly rows—him

calling his girlfriend cunt! and fucking-bitch! and her
throwing back full phrases like the shit that comes out
of your mouth is the same shit that comes out of your
until things, after a while, always go quiet. But

today, in this foggy defused light my neighbor simply
looks sweetly solicitous, and I want to assure him that
it will be all right, that no matter what happens to
the fledglings there will always be next year. I want

to confide that I’ve left my partner after four years of
love and war; a man who would also hover over baby
birds and yet, we can’t save everything I want
to say, though it never hurts [it hurts] to try.

The Repair

He might have burned the house
down smoking in the chair. Feet up

on the butler table, the dropped-
down leaf. He’d fumble his lit

cigarette while the stereo would
blare. The theme from Midnight

Cowboy once kept Talkin’ to the air.
Denver belted out his rocky high for

days without relief. You could hear it
from the neighbor’s house; a child

acts unaware. The Lost Weekend into
weeks . . . is a bender ever brief?

He’d fumble his lit cigarette, the
scratched-up grooves would blare—

like “Where Is Love” from Oliver!
another long drawn out affair. Fagin

I did love though, the Artful
Dodger’s faulted chief. Creeping

home [a pickpocket] I was my
father’s thief. The song became a

siren, warning he’d be wrecked in
there—feet up on the butler table,

the dropped-down leaf . . . but fine
brass hinges could not bear the weight

of all that grief. I see him now [clamp
and glue] attempting the repair.


Virginia Barrett’s work has most recently appeared in Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to Arizona SB 1070 (University of Arizona Press), The Fem, Belle Reve, and Apple Valley Review. She is the editor of two anthologies of contemporary San Francisco poets including OCCUPY SF—poems from the movement. She is the recipient of a 2017 writer’s residency grant from the Helena Wurlitzer Foundation.

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