Two birds named Heat and Hunger


Once upon a time a woman who hated birds married a woman

who owned a parrot that would live forever.

The marriage was clearly a mistake and everyone objected

at the appointed time before the vows, including the parrot

who turned out to know terms like “hostile environment” and “irreconcilable differences”

from watching afternoon television.

Summer was fine but sure as a bird after summer, things went south.

Having heard of the Bluebirds of Happiness,

her wife stitched a Bluebird of Belligerence and it hung on the kitchen wall

right over the breakfast table until the parrot ate it

and got very sick but, of course, survived.


It’s dangerous, mistaking your lover for a bird.

There are plenty of songs about it, songs Mama used to sing you

so by now you ought to know. Once upon a time

lived a woman who made the mistake of walking out into the forest

with skin as white as swan-feather. When you met the woman

who would be your wife, the birches out there were white

against the black earth and black

against the white sky and she sang you a song. You coaxed her into your home

open-mouthed, with little motionings and birdseed and a love

like red berry jam. The way you wanted her would have destroyed anything with feathers.

When she survived it, you were first relieved and then suspicious.

You said: You can eat out of my hand, or starve.

It would have worked on a sparrow, but your

beautiful human wife just left on her long legs, still singing.

Emma Cairns Watson has been a writer since the age of nine and a university administrator since January. A recent graduate of Smith College, where she studied neuroscience and English literature, she now coordinates Egyptology lectures by day and inhales other people’s poetry by night. Her work is forthcoming in Okay Donkey, Half Mystic, and Menacing Hedge, but this here is her very first publication!