Andi Stout

Female Cardinal 

She knows where to land on thin branches. 
Snow sticks to Japanese Maples

like penny candy in humid grocery store jars. 

My mother stands on the front porch in her socks
adjusting the lens of her camera. 
Zooming in 

then out

to catch feather transitions—butter cream 
to caramel to toffee brown or maybe coffee 
streaked with unstirred milk tinged cinnamon.

I wonder where she’s come from—
maybe Grassy Creek, Cowen, or Summersville Cemetery.
Maybe she’s flown the Kanawha’s frozen shoreline. 
Perched atop an infected tree in Nitro, 
maybe she chirped out a warning:

Don’t eat the winter berries. 
These berries are poison. 
The winter berries are poison.
Winter berries are poison.
Are poison. 
Don’t eat the winter berries.
These berries are poison. 

To residents, it’s a song. I wonder if her tongue 
sometimes sounds foreign 
even to her own species. 

She knows someone is watching, 
so she lifts the feathers at her crown 
in mock razor, a caution to predators. 

My mother snaps a photo catching her
in stoic surrender. 


Andi Stout is from Belington, West Virginia. Her poems have appeared in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, The Longleaf Pine, Junoesq, and The Miscreant. Her collection of poems, Tiny Horses Don’t Get a Choice, is forthcoming from Black Cat Moon Press. Andi earned the MFA from West Virginia University where she teaches English.


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