Small and Feathered
Papí, your mistake made us gods.
The birdhouse you built swayed in the wind
the way a tango dancer’s back arches
& sunk the birds further from the sky.
Were you building your own Eden?
Not everything bloomed.
The apple & pear trees,
strawberry bushes, grape vines
& cantaloupe flowers
—the bunnies always got to first,
even with the chicken fence—
proved you couldn’t seed prayers.
Your calloused fingers cradled wood
toward the sharp spine of the saw blade
& gently sanded smoothness
the way a loved one rubs your back when you’re sick.
You carved yourself three canes so you’d be ready
the day your legs betrayed you
but your hands Judased first.
Now, you can’t even draw
the strings of your paper hospital pants.
I moved from room to room in the empty house today
& never noticed the dead bird,
its pearled feathers whispered
across the warped dining room floor.
It looks like the hatchling you cradled
back to life with mariachi songs
ten years ago –– its balloon belly full of air
to whistle like a nested trumpet.
When it learned to fly, you stood in your garbage
truck uniform staring
at your hands that always managed to carry
but never keep.
Sometimes people come back, papí.
Even as omens.
You know the song “Cucurrucucú Paloma?”
The one where Lola Beltrán sings about a heartbroken man
who drank himself to death
only to return as a mourning dove
who continues to weep
over long lost love,
rattling even heaven?
I stood over the dead bird
& asked it to sing me a song
—cántame una canción—
the way you’d ask me every morning
on your commute to work.
Cucurrucucu, paloma, ya no llores
You only drank alcohol once & now a sip of water
will kill you.
Sonya Lara is a biracial Mexican American writer. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently pursuing her MFA in Poetry at Virginia Tech. Currently, she is the Poetry Editor for Minerva Rising and an Editor-at-Large for Cleaver Magazine. Previously, she was the Managing Editor for The New River, the Managing Editor of the minnesota review, and an Associate Fiction Editor for The Madison Review. Additionally, she has served as a juror for contests, such as the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her work was shortlisted for The Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award, runner-up in Shenandoah’s Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, AGNI, The Los Angeles Review, The Acentos Review, and elsewhere. For more information, visit sonyalara.com.