The shrike returns to his cherished blackberry bush,
a grasshopper trapped in his beak.
He has a knack for seeking out the helpless,
demolishing purity to craft it again
in his own image.
He will thrust its body upon
an obliging thorn
until all squirming ceases
and, once more, he can feast.
The blackberry bush,
twiggy and sprouting in its youth,
sits at the perfect height for a lone bird to perch.
The shrike shades its leaves under his wings
even on days where it longs to taste sunlight.
“Little bush,” the shrike says,
“I will always protect you.”
It does not matter whether the bush wishes not to kill,
if it sighs at the sight
of silver wings fluttering overhead,
signaling the end of freedom,
If the bush recoils in defiance,
wills it thorns to stay clean,
the shrike will sing early July memories
of his passerine protection against the other songbirds
that only wish to harm,
to rob branches of berries.
The bush welcomes him like the sun itself,
and trembles not as blood trickles from its leaves.
Greetings from Grand Lake!
Today I will wear the blue t-shirt
that you never liked,
and if you still think I look unprofessional
then maybe check your own heart in the
rearview mirror as you flee,
watch the flames spit
at your dad’s cabin in the Rockies
the same way you do when you see my name
printed beside yours in the paper.
When there’s nothing left of Grand Lake
but charred remains of a failed engagement,
shaped like fallen aspen trees,
the townspeople will know that it was me
who left the candle burning;
your worst-kept secret,
the undergrad with nothing more to gain
but everything to lose,
escaped through a hole in the bag,
a cat with one miserable life left.
And as I hold the matches
how you used to hold the keys,
far above my head,
in a spiral of bitter smoke,
I will scream your name
as I always have,
but you will keep your eyes
on the road.
So today I will wear the blue t-shirt
that you hated
and if you think I’ve ruined my own story
But at least I can dance along the water
and feel the fish smiling back at me,
buss my tables at the tavern
then sleep soundly
you and your town,
your mountainside “getaway”,
are nothing more
than a smoldering postcard memory.
isn’t it all about back then?
sometimes i say i like blackberries
when i really mean that there was once
a big bush behind the street
i used to live on and in the summer, blackberries
and sometimes i say i miss home and
what i really mean is what home felt like
a bright blue front door and
my freckle-faced blood brothers
always just outside my window –
before they outgrew scabby knees
and metal mouths
and still talked about magic.
before she liked him
even though he was dating her
and the world fell apart in the back
of the school bus once a week
because of something someone never said.
back when we knew nothing but
forever and purple-
still reaching for each other
in electric nights just dark
enough to be mistaken for infinity.
that’s why i sometimes feel summer
in the dead of winter,
when i’m forced to greet another lonely
February wind with bare face and heart,
because when i say summer’s my
i really mean you are.
and when i say you,
i mean all the parts
of me i gave to you when
we were young.
Biographical Note: Avery Knoll is a senior Creative Writing major who hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is working to complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo and hopes to one day pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. While she has primarily worked in short fiction writing, she recently found an appreciation for poetry. Most of these poems come from her first unpublished collection written in a workshop course at her university, Kindest Regards from the Jubilee Line.