dead birds

by Elliot McLaughlin

during my last week at my old job,
a hawk killed a seagull right above the front door
no hiding the flurry of soft white feathers floating down
in front of the floor to ceiling glass windows and doors
no keeping that ugliness from anyone

now they say that dead birds are bad luck
so i packed my bags, headed south
only to find this new city is covered with chicken bones
i’ve never seen this bird dead, myself
but i think she must have died here

or maybe she died at home,
and i couldn’t leave her bones behind
carrying the body of bad luck
with me
everywhere i go
seagull feathers and beaks
remind me of the ocean
remind me of home
taking my fortunes with me
like my hand is loaded with the suit of swans
the suit of sorrow
the suit called swords

the bird told me herself
you don’t get a clean slate
until you set down your bag of bones
until you set down your bag of shoulds
and i’ve always been an over packer
over prepared
every last bit of bad luck
shoved in my pockets
talons ripping at the seams
bad luck tangled with entrails
oozing out
at the most
inopportune moments
covering every city i step in
with chicken bones
crunching under my feet
every time i try to take a step forward

i wonder if these breaking bones
disrespect the dead
or if i am finally breaking my bag of bones
setting down the pieces of dead birds that i have been carrying
ever since i stepped out the door

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