How to Keep Things Alive

Beth Gordon

Golden Shovel with line from The Gun Song by the Lumineers

The wrens first built & second abandoned their petal-lined nest: wilted orange flower & things
like salamanders & wasps penetrated the thicket of birth. An empty structure still stands & I
am not awakened at 4 am by their riotous song. Listen: I am an accessory to murder. I knew
not to tell anyone: not to shine a flashlight into their home: not a hypothetical scenario when
the outcome is as final as flame. I planted peppermint plants to keep the squirrels away: I
fenced the dahlias with lavender & sage so the rabbits stayed in their patch of clover. I was
planning this violence all winter so everything would open at the same time. Tiger lilies: the young
sparrows rising from their shells. The daisies never stay in chains: they are almost dead. Some
xenias will last all summer if I can keep the slugs away. I’m learning backyard bird songs: were
you to arrive today I could explain the chorus: blue jay/ raven / a bright cardinal so true
to his art that his babies will surely be discovered. one by one. Dog-walking neighbors &
rabbit-eating dogs: I know this is the circle/I know hunger is a flooded nest/I know. Some
keep their distance: some look into my window to see what I’m singing: I wish they were
listening without weapons in hand: without teeth or wings: our choices necessary & wrong.

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother currently living in Asheville, NC. Her poems have been published in Poet Lore, Citron Review, SWWIM, Pithead Chapel, Moist Poetry, Okay Donkey and others. She is the author of several chapbooks including The Water Cycle (2022, Variant Literature). Beth is Managing Editor of Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Assistant Editor of Animal Heart Press, and Grandma of Femme Salve Books. Twitter and Instagram @bethgordonpoet.

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