Migration (and other poems)


Brown bird in the apple tree,
let’s switch it up. You be the watcher,
and I’ll be the singer. I want you

to know the kind of loneliness
you can’t fly out of. I want you to
wander from room to room
and look at the world from windows.

For just a moment, I want you to listen
for the sound of distant machinery
as it screeches like an animal in pain.

The train leaves town, follows the river.
If you stayed here long enough,
you’d know. Let me be the one
in the branches, the one with more

feathers than foresight. Let me find
my way in the wind, a force invisible
as hope. But, no, you are gone.

There will be no bloom on this tree
for months.

Myth of Men

Twang of men’s voices
next door, they gather
to work on a car engine,
power tools exultant
with effort. My father
taught me how to change
a tire, oil and filter,
taught me to get my hands dirty,
show the world I am a man.
Yesterday, two boys walked
down the street, palm to palm.
They could have been brothers,
one the caretaker, the other at risk
of running right out into the street.
They could have been lovers,
showing affection in a way
I’ve always wanted.
The men next door laugh.
And because my thoughts are
a flock of birds, I know
they are laughing at me.
Because I know nothing
of automotive repair.
Because they scorn me
for whom I love. Because
my hands are clean.

Cockchafer Beetle

            —Melolontha melolontha

 		Sometimes ancient
 	meanings get lost.
Words crawl around in the mouth
and in the mind, scuttle under
stray thoughts, no more than leaves

 		fallen to the forest floor.
 	I think lustfully.
I cast nouns and verbs aslant
as shadows of themselves.
I make the world

 		lascivious, even this beetle
 	with a name that denotes
a large, plant-gnawing pest.
But that was centuries before now,
when children used to tie

 		a string to a bug’s jagged leg,
 	then watch it fly, trapped,
in circles above them.
There are days I only feel
this way, all my inklings

 		tethered and buzzing over me,
 	a swarm of unquiet sorrows.
I know I shouldn’t ascribe emotions
to a bug, but those ebony eyes
look too wise, adorned

 		with anemone lashes. I imagine
 	this creature a hazard to men,
sneaking in at night,
doing unspeakable things,
laying eggs within their privates.

 		Or another word for an STD, or
 	an addiction to sex. Or, worse yet,
an ugly epithet that just can’t be
shaken loose, like the past.
It’s always there, even if

 		we remember it wrong. How it slips
 	through trees at night, enters dark fields,
and eats tender foliage. When we wake,
we know something is different,
and there has to be a word for it.


  • David B. Prather is the author of WE WERE BIRDS from Main Street Rag Publishing (2019). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, The Literary Review, and many others. He studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, and he studied writing at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. He lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

  • Images of the Space Shuttle docking with Mir in 1995, the International Space Station in 2009, and Astronaut Bruce McCandless on an untethered space walk in 1984. Courtesy NASA.