A small bird built a secret nest
beneath my balcony. There must be
hatchlings, out of view.
She flies back and forth, small prey
in her beak.
Some kind of wren, I think.
Small, brown and quick. No time for
singing midday. Duty
is her instinct.
She flits. Frets. Undeterred.
She knows the world as it is. No
conspiracy, no theory. Life, for her,
is life. Open throats and beak. Trust,
her leaving marked by each return.
My neighborhood is gentrifying.
The whites are here, folks say.
We will get sidewalks now. And 4-way
stop signs at the corner where that grandma
and her grandbabies were killed that time.
They walk their dogs. Push baby carriages.
Post paranoia on Ring.
I have a Ring doorbell. We watch and
don’t subscribe. A gimmick
my husband says, a veteran. Air Force.
(Not to be confused with Space Force.)
We watch dogs on leashes shit on our lawn.
We watch for property tax hikes.
I watch a Jaybird harass
a black and brown cat, her
message: do not tarry here.
From my window I watch a carpenter bee
drill a new hole in my front post. NPR
drones on in the background—they do
ads now like news. Across the street a boy plays alone
in his driveway. The virus dictates his solitary game.
Another boy sits in the family car. Doors flung open.
He wears earphones, private dances to House.
My nephew’s here today. We
entertain him on the deck. He can’t come in,
took a plane from Orlando. Arrives
bearing flowers—spring mix
in a cut glass vase, and a white orchid.
We remember not to hug.
Mother wren is not alone. She has a mate.
To my eye they are indistinguishable male, female.
They flit to and from the nest, tireless
they tend fledgling life. I wonder if they
think that this is hard. I wonder if they mourn
the one among too many mouths
to feed, the one outbid by its siblings, the one
who will fall from the nest, not fly.
I think my springtime thoughts. The wrens
see the world as it is. As it must be—a conspiracy
of need. My husband jokes he will
charge them rent. The gift orchid trembles
white in a breeze unthreatening
as the lithe brown boy jogging
past this house, his daily run
after “Girl with Fan” & “Angel #3”
2 paintings by Charmaine Minniefield
is how we dream
girl girl girl-ness
as cotton fields
in a painting
and we are
not picking it.
We are brisk
with white crinoline we float
like dandelion fluff—but girls still,
stuck to dark legs
yet rooted so
telltale knees are
scrappy vivid maps of
hard play, riotous days
of girls who are not fluff
knees not yet ladylike,
girls unconvinced of the dream
of our taming
when we’ll be washed white
in Jesus’ blood.
This is how we forget race,
smooth archival faces
photo grey cool
as innocence lost to first loves
first cars, first babies fat
and laughing, picture books
bright yellow wreaths
in warm yellow Sundays,
funeral fans cooling death
advertising a good
because people will always
And death: it will be god’s gift
and yellows splashed
over a wax resist,
to preserve the whites.
And death, sweet
like faith and god.
No cell phone video.
This is how we dream
our once hungry arms
gone to feathers
Crinoline - photo courtesy of Opal Moore
Opal Moore, "Spring Mix," Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic (Edited by Valerie Boyd. Wilmington, NC: Lookout Books, 2022). Copyright © 2022 Opal Moore. Republished with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.
Opal Moore, a native Chicagoan, is a veteran teacher of creative writing and African American women’s literature. She is the author of the poetry collection Lot’s Daughters. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including the Boston Review, Notre Dame Review, Connecticut Review, Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women’s Humor, Homeplaces: Stories of the South by Women Writers, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, and Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic. She currently serves on the board of The Art Section, and as fiction editor for Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora.