Brett Mertins

Using Our Words

I’m in the kitchen washing dishes when
Joe yells, Daddy, come see what William did.
Tell me what happened, I say and lean in
to scrape dried jam off a sippy cup lid.
And like he always does, Joe calls to me
—I swear I hear this fifty times a day—
Daddy, you have to come in here and see.
Joseph, you need to use your words
, I say.

It’s in our nature to make words a game.
However, yesterday an unfledged bird
fell from its nest and thumped the ground, lame.
The boys kept watch without a word
until lunch when, licking jam off his bread,
Joe said, That baby bird we found is dead.


Brett Mertins lives with his wife and two sons in Omaha, Nebraska, where he teaches English at Metropolitan Community College. His poetry has appeared in Think: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Reviews and The American Aesthetic.

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