/n hoks


Another bird comes to my window.
Like me, it needs to be released
From the hell it carries in its little head.
Like me, it lost its warble. Maybe beneath
The moldy potatoes stacked in the silo.
Maybe in the dead squirrel’s stomach.
Maybe in the lizard’s glass box
Which smells of woodchips and animal
Which is why no one visits the house.

Is the bird looking for the wall of butterflies?
Or is it listening for the wall of sound
That houses the queen
Whose eyes make our stomachs warble?
She loves vermouth and marbles.
She loves to mouth her ice water
And builds pendant nests with mud and reeds
And leftover candy wrappers.
When she winks, the yard fills up with snow.
When she sighs, the sky infiltrates the shed.
Sometimes her sentences stop in the middle,
Waxing half moons that slam into reverse.

She wants the moonlight to go back
To the shade it was before the fern died.
She knows the reedy bird must shiver
But no longer sing, trying to ignore the warbling sky
Which is blue though not the jewel the mind makes
As it envisions the child’s face warped around the steel silo.
The face in the window. The face in the tree.
The face in the cupboard with sugar, vanilla, and tea.


The nest is a warp of conflict. Its twisted reeds
And muddy floor absorb the young ones’ squabbles.
Putrid eggs get stuffed behind family photos
And scrambling microorganisms chew at the padded walls
While assassinating shadows inch toward the window.

They have come to build a new house in my brain.
They have come to slash the hose and destroy the garden.
They have come to scribble with red crayon on the walls
And collect the half-colored coloring books
And turn the spongy pages into a pulpy mush.

Conflict warps the nest. Like a robotic sparrow
I peck peck peck at the mush mush mush which tastes of old paper
And earth and blue crayon mixed with green crayon
Mixed with chlorine dioxide and maybe some guar gum.
I taste no banana. No omega-3s. My springy jaw
Chomp-chomps and I fold up in the bedroom where

I write a hundred poems in the shapes of birds.
They ask questions about dust bunnies and vaccinations.
They smash their beaks on parenting books.
They launch themselves from windowsills and electric lines.
They spiral-dive to chase each other’s unhitched feathers
And their shrill cries awaken the neighborhood patrol.

The nest whorls around us. The dazzling shadows slip away.
The bird-poems spit pulpy mush all over the cradle
So I paint the window blue and call it the Ocean.
Life-vested children wave sticks in the air. The blue-green
Body swells. When I cough, the whirlpool listens.

Nathan Hoks has published two books, Reveilles and The Narrow Circle, and his poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming in Conduit, Fence, The New Orleans Review, The Harvard Review, and Matter. He lives in Chicago and teaches at the University of Chicago and Loyola University. He also edits and publishes handmade chapbooks with Convulsive Editions.