Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Backyard Politics

in Gun Violence by

A male cardinal feasts
at the feeder longer
than the other birds, takes
up space enough to keep seeds
to himself while others
approach, retreat,
wait their turn.
One female finch persists.
Barely fledged, back and forth
she flies, dares each trip
to perch by his side.
Each time he spreads his wings,
pecks her beak until
she flutters away.
I am supposed to let birds be birds.
The window frames the cardinal
like a photograph, every angle
of his profile enraged scarlet
like newspaper images of Trump
I have tried to ignore.
Am I supposed to let humans be humans?
Just before I step outside
gunfire sounds nearby.
Voices from adjacent backyards rise
along with birdsong into remaining daylight.
The neighbor who fired the shots has decided
a groundhog does not deserve to live.
When the other neighbor requests
he refrain from shooting toward his yard,
the gunman points and yells, “I’m not!
I’m shooting over there!”
I stand from where he has not observed
me sitting, raise my hand, call out, “I am here!
Don’t shoot in this direction! Please
just stop shooting at all!”
He waves his arms, explains
and exclaims excuses from his deck
toward two people he cannot see.
Near sunset something similar to silence resumes.
Eventually the cardinal flies from the feeder
long enough for the finch to find room.
One by one her sisters join her.
The groundhog continues trekking.
The moon promises fullness soon.


Donna Doyle is a poet, photographer, and writing instructor who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her poetry has been published in literary and medical journals including Still: The Journal, JAMA, and CHEST. She is the author of a chapbook, Heading Home, published by Finishing Line Press.

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