Issue 26 | Fall 2020

Black Birder

comes for the elms which bring 

the gold-flecked orioles to their branches. 

Instead, he finds the cardinal, drop of blood

flitting through the leaves, dancing where

the light moves a hand as it breaks here,

breaks there, casts shadow against ashen bark.


In the city, birds break their necks on glass high-rises,

mistake reflections for trees.


A Swainson’s thrush! He crouches low,

watches its burnt-beige belly

and black-jelly eyes. He holds his breath.

He must uphold stillness or the congregation

in the trees will burst away.


Artificial light can dizzy migratory patterns,

confuse flocks as they center on brightness.


When he holds his breath like this,

the pain in his throat reminds him he’s alive.

He lets the air seep out, measured, slow, his lungs

a balloon weeping. He doesn’t notice

the eyes on him, the white policeman—

navy blue, shiny badge.


Somehow, birds survive, though we’ve cut down

their trees, paved over their landings. 


He holds out his arms, unfolds

his hands to show the binoculars

are not a gun. Officer steps off, mumbles something

into the radio on his chest. Birder exhales,

packs up his bag, a long rivulet of sweat

winding down his neck.


Birds eat our crumbs, our refuse.

They dance their little feet in the gutters

stained by spit and oil.

Filed under: Poetry

Cedric Rudolph moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 2016. Two years later, he received his MFA from Chatham University. He is currently in his third year of teaching fiction and poetry to middle and high school writers at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school (CAPA). He is one of the founding editors of Beautiful Cadaver, which publishes social justice-themed anthologies and stages theatrical performances. His poems are published in Christianity and Literature Journal, The Laurel Review, and the Santa Fe Literary Review.