I worry about my four-year-old daughter
being so morbid. Just the other day, her preschool teacher
said she’d been carrying on about her imaginary dead sister
again to a group of kids waiting in line for the swings.
I picture her telling them about this made-up sister,
while kids are swinging beside her,
saying things like, it was the killer ants
that did it. She got a bad rash. It’s so sad.
Then the conversation just ends
and the kids go on chasing one another
up and down the jungle gym.
Today it begins with the half-eaten blackbird
on our porch. I tell her it’s a gift from the cat.
But she wants to know if she runs with it super fast
on a windy day and throws it way way up
if it’ll come back down, flapping its black wings again.
Yes. It seems so simple, and just like that
everything makes sense: the thirteen-year-old Croatian girl
I saw earlier on the news, who woke from a coma, fluent
in German, words spilling from her mouth so naturally,
magisch, leben, as though they always were on the tip
of her tongue. I imagine it’s like that for dead people too.
They step outside a kitchen door into a flock of birds
fluttering about, and when they open their mouths to speak
it’s all instruments, trombones and saxophones and flutes
whistling from windpipes, their tonsils flapping like cymbals.
Nothing about the dead imaginary sister seemed strange
to the other preschoolers or to her teacher. Kids just tell stories, she said.
I tell my daughter the blackbird is fine. How do you know?
I don’t, I say. And she just moves on, spinning in circles,
twirling underneath a cotton white sky.
—from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
Liz Scheid: “When I was a sophomore in high school, I had an amazing teacher who loved poetry. He’d walk around the room, reciting lines from poems and poets I’d never heard of. I still remember the time he had us analyze Anne Sexton’s ‘For My Lover Returning to His Wife.’ We went over it line by line. I was struck by the details, the rawness. I carried that poem around with me for days. In fact, I still have that crumpled poem, now tarnished with time, full of all my annotations. That’s why I write poetry. I want my words to be carried around in someone’s pocket.”