portion of the artwork for Rebecca Schumejda's poem

The Beginner’s Guide to Birding
Rebecca Schumejda

He tells me his cellmate was placed in protective custody
for not paying back debts, that the men he double crossed
waited outside his vocational class with shivs made from
the sharpened handles of toothbrushes. Yesterday morning,
I identified an oriole, two days before a yellow finch.

He tells me that doing bird means doing time then laughs.
Before, my little brother’s incarceration, I never thought
much about birds. I mean they were always there,
but I never noticed. I mean take for instance the warbler,
I see them everywhere now, all different species.

I read somewhere that in medieval times, prisoners were
locked in suspended cages that hung in village centers and
somewhere else I read that there are more people in the U.S.
suffering from schizophrenia than insulin-dependent diabetes.
Did you know blue jays mimic hawks to warn their own
of pending dangers?
He begins to tell me about what the men did
with their toothbrushes after they didn’t find his cellmate,
but then stops and asks, Do you hear that? I don’t want to die in here.
I found a nest, I tell him, where the birds incorporated blue yarn
from a mitten Lexi lost last winter.
The automated voice interrupts
to let us know we have one-minute remaining, we donít know how
to end these conversations yet. He says his medications make his
mouth dry and I ask, As if stuffed with feathers?
and then we wait, in silence, for the system to disconnect us.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 50 | Fall/Winter 2017