Where a Shotgun House is Just Trying to Make It

by | Jan 17, 2018 | Poetry

A bird crashes against a window.
The children scream, the mother screams.
There’s a mother screaming and a bird
flapping on the ground with a broken wing,
and the children run through the house
flapping their arms like wings, and they slam
into walls, smash into each other, and whoop
and scream and laugh, and unsheathe their little teeth—
so tiny it seems they wouldn’t break skin,
but here in this house that smells like a woodpile

that’s been under a tarp for three winters,
where coffee cups are stained with someone’s existence,
and the kitchen table’s covered with salt and sugar grains,
where the howl of a fox is mistaken for a banshee,
and through the quiet wordlessness of planting flowers
my father’s experiences of war are spoken most clearly,
where in his eyes the weather drips like skim milk,
where a social worker wrote in her notebook,
This mother clearly doesn’t love this child,
where a river runs through the living-room,

and wildfires burn in the bedrooms, where police
won’t draw their guns on a white girl in pigtails,
where we think we’re smarter than History,
where we think that dying’s a cliché because it is,
where there’s something about my heart that isn’t right,
and I’m an old rug left out in the rain over a porch railing,
where tomorrow will come, and I’ll still be here
in one form or another, not knowing the Slavic word for love,
I can take off my shirt, and bare the scar on my shoulder
that can fit in my younger cousin’s mouth.

Where a Shotgun House is Just Trying to Make It By Joshua Michael Stewart

Photo used under CC.

About The Author


Joshua Michael Stewart has had poems published in Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Cold Mountain Review, Georgetown Review, William and Mary Review, Flint Hills Review, Pedestal Magazine, Evansville Review and Worcester Review. Pudding House Publications published his chapbook Vintage Gray in 2007. His first full-length collection of poems, Break Every String, was published by Hedgerow Books in 2016. Visit him at joshuamichaelstewart.com