Britton Shurley, "The Red-winged Blackbird"





Whose name is a strut for the tongue, 

a song that can crack the heart

like mine did when that bird lit down 


on a purpled redbud’s branch 

in Ron and Kelli’s field. This handful 


of acres they’ve saved from an inland 

flood of McMansions now drowning Indiana. 

This field where chickens roam—


Orpingtons, Wynadottes, and Rhode

Island Reds— all hunting for bugs at dusk

by a garden of onions and melons. 

And as if that’s not enough, a child’s 

on its way in fall. Now I know I know 


nothing for certain, but this boy 

will be born amidst magic, in a home 


where cabbage and apple and ginger 

turn to jars of kraut so sweet your mouth 

wants to shout and dance. I hope his name 


holds such a tune, that it sings 

like the sound of the Red-winged 


Blackbird and can bare a hyphen’s 

weight. Maybe Banjo-Nectarine 

or Cannonball-Daffodil Abdon.  


Either way, his life will be music. 

I’ll bet he makes this cold world swoon.



Britton Shurley is an Assistant Professor of English at West Kentucky Community & Technical College and edits the journal Exit 7. The recipient of a 2010 Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council, Shurley also has had poems in such journals as Southern Poetry Review, Louisville Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review.