Christopher Martin is the author of the poetry chapbook A Conference of Birds (New Native Press 2012), and his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Shambhala Sun, Ruminate Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, drafthorse, Buddhist Poetry Review, Poecology, Town Creek Poetry, and the Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. V: Georgia, among other places. Chris is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online literary magazine Flycatcher and is a contributing editor at New Southerner, where he writes the monthly blog Kairos and Crisis about race, religion, and social justice in the South. Chris is studying creative writing at Kennesaw State University, and lives with his wife and their two young children in the northwest Georgia piedmont, between the Allatoona Range and Kennesaw Mountain.

Parable of the Flycatcher
                            Be ye a refuge to yourselves.


My grandfather says the flycatcher
has yet to nest in the box by the garden
at the edge of the woods,
the bird whose song
is a whistling weep.

I show him my field guide, point to the bird
for which he waits—Myiarchus crinitus,
little gray body, pollen yellow belly,
bearing a grasshopper in its beak.

He considers the words on the page:

               Nests in old woodpecker holes,
               but can be attracted to boxes…
               Often fills its nest with a collection of things:
               fur, feathers, string, and snakeskins…

He says once he pulled
a snakeskin from the box
and it blew to dust
in his hand. 

On this porch overlooking blossoming dogwoods,
the violent ghosts of my grandfather’s past
and my own are at play in the trees, the scars
of abuse and bloodshed of the Korean War
drifting in the breeze like kingsnake scales.

“You know them birds,” he says,
“will use most anything
to build their nests.
When I cut my hair,
I leave some for them
in the grass.”

                          —for Papa 



 (fromA Conference of Birds by Christopher Martin, New Native Press, 2012; Reprinted with permission)


Read Christopher Martin's previous work in Still

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