Reflection – Laura Johnson

  1. The Humans

Stephanie was flipping waffles,
and I was frying eggs
when you kamikazied your reflection,
dropped into your awkward ruffled breathing.
Our hysterical hound howled.

                He’s just stunned.
Away with the dog.
                Let’s get him off the ground.
Into a box,
               Onto the patio table,
Raise the umbrella.
               Who could we call?
Drive to Marietta for a woodpecker?

We played spa music for you
on the way to Marietta,
and named you Chip after
your chipped beak.
               What if we open the box
               and he’s dead?
On cue, you raked talon
across cardboard.
                What if we open the box and
                he flies around the vet’s office?

What have you got?
                            A flicker.
My signature relinquished you,
A woman in a white-coat swept
you away, box unopened, to a back room.

We were eating tacos at
La Fonda with Caleb and Amy
when I called the vet.
The front-desk lady checked, said
you were “on oxygen and stable.”
I ended the call, we laughed
around the table,
then settled down, quiet like—
wondered how it would be
           to be a small feathered thing,
                     breathing the oxygen of giants.

       2. The Bird

Now that it’s over, I see the glass
that half-smacked my life out, and
the other half, flitting away painfully.

Now that it’s over, I get the cardboard box
–your trembling, halting hands lifting me in—
the whirring car, the excited white-coat

voices, the oxygen mask, the cawing
veterinarians. None of it made sense then;
confusion and fear flocked and throbbed.

But now that I’ve fledged timeless feathers
and swooped into eternity, I see what I was—
a flicker fighting my reflection.

And if I could drop a note from my
spirit foot, I’d help you see how you
battle yourself too, how you ride
thin rumbling hope in your own box.

Laura JohnsonLaura Johnson is the author of Not Yet, recently released by Kelsay Books and available on Amazon. Her work has appeared in a range of online and print journals and anthologies, including Literary Mama, Time of Singing, Reach of Song (Georgia Poetry Society, 2018), Snakeskin, and The New Southern Fugitives. Laura holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University and teaches high school English/ESOL in Fayette County, Georgia.