From Nerve Cowboy #11 Spring 2001 WATCHING MY FATHER FEED THE BIRDS Lori Jakiela He would not talk about death, never let the word rise or curl like a feather on his breath. He took vitamins, twirled apricot pits on his tongue, enjoyed this taste of cyanide. Even pulled most of his own teeth until he couldn't stop the bleeding, was proud of this, left his dentures on the table, grinning under a napkin while he ate. He kept plastic jugs swollen with pennies under his bed. In the basement, shelves buckled under cans of peas and creamed corn. He held baby pictures in his wallet, wrapped the cracked leather with rubber bands. On my last birthday, he gave me a copy of his will, said I was old enough to understand such things, said if He picked at the black mole that spread across his back until he bled, grew thinner, hid in the basement, sat on the stairs in the dark smoking Pall Malls, listening to a pocket radio. Sometimes he sang in Polish as he did when his father was alive and together they'd break the Christmas wafer, hold it on their tongues until it caught and held like skin. He would not talk about death, tore loaves of fresh bread to feed sparrows and robins. He chased crows, flailing his arms, a small, just god. He stood in the center of the yard, tossed crumbs, and the birds fell around him like a curtain. They wait for me, he'd say. Know I'm coming. They'd sit in the trees and sing and sing and sing. BACK to Nerve Cowboy home page.