They simmered up the window panes
inside my uncle’s farmhouse,
their black pointed tails curling
against the sun stained curtain lace
in the bedroom where we had been jailed
for an afternoon nap.
In those summers before the family scattered
into suburban cul-de-sacs and air-conditioned bungalows,
we believed their fearsome power
had been summoned to hold us there.
We heard our mothers shuffle pots
on a wood stove, slam pie plates into the oven,
rattle silver and dishes for the evening meal.
Through the window I saw a real bluebird
hang over the brown, rutted barnyard and disappear
behind jalopies half sunken on bone naked axels,
gouged windshields and amputated doors.
Cousins and brothers, we sweltered
in the musk of stale wallpaper paste,
then broke with the past, slid
off the cast iron bed, howled
as they stung our naked feet,
their wings slapping the wooden floor.
Even now at reunions, we hold the tender skin
of our arches up to the light,
marvel at the terror branded
in those thin white scars.