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,

of light.


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 

then fine.

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 

knowing that 

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 

at 15,

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-

stained hands 

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 

favorite season,

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.