And Send a Bird

Chessy Normile

I ignore omens all the time.A bird in each airport terminal,pale fruit split open in the grass,a man bearing his lowcenter of gravityjust outside my housetalking loudly on the phone about seeds...Someone even says "Augury" on the busas I ride to meet you. Nobody says augury.But I don't quit my jobwhen the lights go outthe same moment as you say "tomorrow"and I wake from dreamsof fire overtaking the town, but stillI light the stove for coffee.In Greece, everyone said "augury"and everyone watched as a snake,the precise color of bloodpouring out of a bag at night,swallowed nine baby sparrowsand then their mother.And what I'm saying is everybody really reacted!They set sail for Troy! And then stayed there! For ten years!They left their wives, their favorite and least favoritechildren, their soft and fallow fields, their vineyardsripe with fat purple grapes, their beds and customfire pits, all because a snakekilled ten birds nine years ago.I watch a small, brown birdtrying each window at the airport.She is trapped and I am afraidwill die here. But I get on my plane anyway.The layover is in Phoenix.As if that weren't enough,in this terminal againappears a small, brown birdcharging towards the windows.How is itthat I can ignore all thisand board a second plane?In the ninth year, actually, the Achaeans forgot whythey'd agreed to spend so much time away from homeand asked to leave. But an auger everybody trustedwas there to remind them. Is that right?I guess it doesn't really matter.This poem is more-so about howan identification with snake behavior/bird murdercost a lot of people their lives.Driving me home from the gymThom notices the moon."Hey," he says "that big upside-down moonis the same as the one on my arm,"and holds it up to show me."An omen," I say with authority from the passenger seat.He asks what type.The music on the radiois from twelve months ago."It's a good omen, I think,to drive towards somethingyou have on your body."I shift around in the darkas Thom changes the station."Years ago," he says,"around the time when I began to lose it,I saw omens everywhereand followed all of them."A train makes the customary soundsand I wonder if I have been insensitiveby bringing omens up so casually.I really love Thomand want him to knowthat in Ancient Greece nobodywould've thought he was crazy.

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Courtney Allen

Chessy Normile is the author of Great Exodus, Great Wall, Great Party, selected by Li-Young Lee for the 2020 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers where she was awarded an Academy of American Poets University Prize. She lives in New York where she edits a zine series called Girl Blood Info.

Winner of the 2020 APR/Honickman First Book Prize

Selected and with an Introduction by Li-Young Lee 

"In Great Exodus, Great Wall, Great Party, Chessy Normile's miraculously disarming speaker is my tenderest, strangest, bravest, most vulnerable and most interesting friend. Like my days, and maybe yours, her days are full of things happening that are remarkable and mundane, scarring and healing, often funny, sometimes hilarious, frequently sad, occasionally tragic. My mind has never moved quite so marvelously as when guided by the gentle fearlessness of Chessy's poems."
—Lisa Olstein, author of Pain Studies and Late Empire 

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