Gary McDowell

The Lazarus Reflex

Starlings name the sky, the skirt. They swoon  

and every one fills the twilight. A stuck leaf  

or shoe-black in the moonlight: grief’s story  

tells everything, and we wake the hill to climb 

where the starlings circle. The lovely hang  

of their wings, of a stranger—distance in waves— 

as wind swings a swingset. Is it that color,  

the sky, exactly? Painted, turned toward— 

upward slightly—you are lying through  

your sunset. O to be a fortune-teller. O  

to make still. Voices, shadows, bodies— 

the merit of a sculpture, of starlings.  

A locked door, faces shaped like candles,  

like memory hacking light, the Old English  

word for saw blade, a snout, a thrashing river, 

and we remember to rejoice in fever. Cross 

your arms over your chest, measure the distance 

between the wicker chair and the landfill, 

and tell me, starling, that miracles never happen.

Gary McDowell

Gary L. McDowell is the author of five collections of poetry, including, most recently, Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016), winner of the 2014 Burnside Review Press Book Award, and Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014). He’s also the co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Nation, and Gulf Coast. He lives in Nashville, TN with his family where he’s an assistant professor of English at Belmont University.