Sonya Lara

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, cucurrucucu

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