First, she gave up the apostrophes of baby shrimp, not so hard, as their pink bodies reminded her of pork (abandoned so long ago it doesn’t warrant counting). Next, the quotation marks of jumbo prawns, easy except during the seaside holiday when it rained every day and there was little enough for enjoyment. Calamari, those rings like a mouth in shock, left in a puddle of grease on a plate. Fish had to be examined. Are eyes that shift a problem? What about scales but no gills? Shirt sleeves lengthened so the bony intrusion of an elbow was covered. Her beloved jeans assigned to the Goodwill bag. She’d always hated her hair so a shaitl, sleek and long the way her own tight curls could never be coaxed, was a blessing. But the mini, a slinky dress that hugged her hips more difficult, hung mournfully in the back of her closet for close to a year. Finally transformed, she stood waiting for God to call her name. She is standing still.
Mockingbirds deserve their reputation, thieving little bastards that they are, but when one began its nest building in the orange tree, I rooted for it, perhaps as overcompensation for being a cat owner (make that two). At first the nest was flat as if squashed from above (a specimen on a slide), but slowly it rounded into an open cup. Dead twigs — check — fronds — check — but then cigarette filters appeared. (As an “asthmatic” no smokers in this household.) Shreds of aluminum foil streamed from the nest like Christmas tree tinsel (again, Jewish household so not possible). The two mockers worked the nest (though never together), like a couple cleaning a car; the male sponging the outside, female vacuuming the floor mats. Male twigging the foundation, female lining with grasses and moss. I noted its progress, cheering the increasing gaudiness. One day it was done. So were the mockingbirds. No eggs. No fledglings. No explanation. The nest faded like a barn collapsing. The branches scolded against a darkening sky that did not reward with rain. All color muted. Maybe squirrels attacked. I felt cheated, having switched my allegiance to the pair. The mockingbirds wreaking their revenge.
Carol V. Davis is the author of Below Zero, forthcoming in 2023 from Stephen F. Austin State University Press, and Because I Cannot Leave This Body (Truman State University Press, 2017). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Her poetry has been read on National Public Radio, the Library of Congress and Radio Russia. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, she also taught in Siberia, winter 2018 and teaches at Santa Monica College, California and Antioch University, Los Angeles.