Scott Withiam


Up till then, you could say, I aimed my gun at any rustling in a bush,
any flutter, any sign of life, and no matter what, pulled the trigger.
Life? There was no body, just a lot of feathers. Then something rushed

over me. Isn't that how we say it? There was a shadow and then a storm
of birds, starlings, the few grackles who followed them down,
who ran the starlings off once they found food on the ground.

With the grackle, the eye is made brighter buried in the long coat of black.
One must be cloaked in the blackest bad before he can see. That's what it said.
It literally turned me around. That's how we say it. Heading back,

I walked only clearings, counted birds in the open instead of confronting them
in the rough. All of the flocks traveled in odd numbers, I said, with a spare,
because bad things happen which need repair. "What are you looking for?"

asked other hunters, who saw me so carefully counting. "Forgiveness."
That's what I said, and then kept going. Near home, I came upon two men
harvesting a cranberry bog. On break, they smoked and paced. Overhead,

a steady stream of gulls returned from the landfill. "After a day's work,"
I said, "returning home with their lunch pails." "They aren't carrying anything,"
one worker said. "And they're so full." That's what I said. I thought I was all that,

as we say, clean, absolved. Higher up, the other guy spotted an osprey circling.
He pointed it out, then stared down at his work, the wash of red berries at our feet.
"Out of this bloody mess," he said, "that bird could locate then lift the most perfect berry."

"And then what," said his buddy, "go back up there and hang where it's so lonely?"