By Tim Muren
The Drs. Paulette and Jay Mehta Award in Creative Writing
Again, the cardinal assaults the back
porch window, speeding toward its own
reflection— stops short, hovers,
hesitates. Crazy bird, like to crack
glass, flaps back—maybe slightly
concussed—perches on slippery elm,
eyes my empty mudroom with what
I swear is anger. Come sit at the dining
table, give me a piece of your mind.
You should know this house is
my mother’s; be mad at her; maybe visit
her at Parkview Clinic—follow
me if you like, to the renovated church
to the long, white hall, to the queue
waiting for a cafeteria to open for dinner.
“That’s really good, she recognizes you!”
some other patron will say. There will be
movement along the perimeter;
there will be seats at round tea tables
under brittle feathers of a stuffed
rooster hanging from fishing line.
You can read the e-mails from her sisters
in California and St. Louis—watch
with her the construction outside—
expansion— a carpenter carrying
sawhorses through drizzle—
We can agree, “I wouldn’t want
to be him right now,” muddy
Levi’s cuffs under steel-toe heels,
yellow slicker’s hood over hardhat
as a backhoe operator pulls one
more stump from what is left
of 12th street woods. Trembling
witch-hair roots, crumbling
red-gray clay. Help me
decipher as my mother muses,
hums, yawns, raises her left
hand, shrugs. Laugh, as she laughs,
when she wants to say something.
She always does this. It seems
important. “See. Tee. Like. Bike…”
She growls, gnashes her teeth because
I do not know. Help me understand.
And once she nods and waves us
away, follow me back here again
and watch as I write this down—
in a poem no less—reach with me
for an epiphany, a translation of desire,
anger, fear— how would it manifest if
it came? As fear outdistancing fatigue?
As faith outdistancing fear?
As lucky combinations of hope and despair
hurtling out of nowhere into nothing,
As a bird attacking the back
window, as the construction workers
outside the clinic, as the distance
between, as a carpenter in clumsy
thermal gloves, walking toward unearthed
hickory trunks, carrying a green
thermos, carrying blueprints.
Sensible as anything,
comprehensible as any instructions
he ever spread out over
plywood and smoothed
over the backs of horses.
Tim Muren has worked at UAMS for almost 25 years, and for the last six years he has been head of the writing center that is part of the Student Success Center. Tim’s previous publications include poetry in Prairie Schooner, Cortland Review, and Antigonish Review.