Not the volume so much
as the anger in her screeches
that causes all the lights in the car
to blink and go out. Even a short squawk
will blister your ears. Her pain will fester
inside your head, unhealed,
until you find yourself one day
polishing the skull of a squirrel
you found in your front yard, setting it
gently in a safe place
to horde like a family jewel. From the moment
you hear her cry, only dead things
will hold beauty for you. At some point
during every conversation you have
with a neighbor, or mailman, or lover,
their flesh will melt away. You will
want to follow their bones home.
This cannot be helped
any more than the owl’s cry can be unheard.
Tie seven knots in twine
to wear around your neck if you’d like.
It might buy you some time to hold
the living close. It might even turn
their blood red again on your hands.
"Three" - Ellen Langford
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.