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I remember a mangled mallard,

a blotch of emerald, a blur of brown

on the dirt road, and though I'd been

told never to touch a bird because

they carry diseases, a heartbeat is

a heartbeat, and I placed one hand

upon him, and the other upon the earth,

so that all of us could weep together.


I remember a mangled mallard,

who dodged pellets and spittle and

crouched under a bus seat that

smelled of sweat and tennis shoes,

and she timed her ride by the pulse

in her head so that she knew when

to crawl out of the hydraulic door and

fall into the green grass that loved her.


I remember a mangled mallard,

who flailed from a man's mouth —

it's kind of funny to shoot and watch

them crumple to the ground — but it

was a party, so I swallowed my own

throat-burn, stumbled to the shadows,

found the avian iridescence, whispered

yes, your existence had meaning.


I remember the mallards, all of the

mallards. Together, we thrash and wail

until we locate our home in the ether,

until our cries smooth to a symphonic line.

We are the shamans who must honor

our own streaks of life.

"Outlanders" first published in The Fourth River

Notes: At different times in my life, I have struggled to feel a sense of belonging within various groups and even within family. In "Outlanders," I wanted to explore that in-between space I occupied with respect to people as well as nature. The poem asks whether we can create the space in which we belong. It also recognizes the other kindred souls out there, all seeking their own place in the world.

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