One suitor, one plain robin of a man

came down the walk to the front door—


slender, bald, too neat. And after that,

Mom hung it up. At fifty,


she’d just returned to work and being single.

Around that time, in the middle of a spat


I don’t remember about what, three teens

under her roof, I leveled


my unconscious compulsion, the airgun,

at a bird in the driveway. If the sky


was the unimpeachable blue of its eggs,

I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t thinking


of the blue jay’s bloody raids she used to cry

telling us about. I wasn’t thinking robin,


just moving target.

Not that it moved.

Unlike the other times I’d grabbed the gun.


It was like putting the gun against the screen

in Duck Hunt. The worst part was, everyone—


my brother, sister, and mom—stopped fighting

to watch. Like they were lining up the sights,


or lined up in them.

We were so vulnerable!

 In the sudden quiet, the robin fell


without protest. And with the gasps

and groans and looks of uncomprehending horror,


our pain was sublimated, rearranged.

Polar and non-polar, water and oil,


and between us a bond, a bridge, a barrel.



Austin Segrest teaches 17th-century poetry and poetry writing at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. A former Sewanee Writers’ Conference and NEH fellow, he was a 2018-19 poetry fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, and a fellow at the Ucross Foundation (WY). His poems appear in Poetry, Threepenny Review, Ecotone, New England Review, Yale Review, Ploughshares, Guernica, and many others.

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