On top of the low mountain, Girl Jamie watched
buzzards watching her from their perch
high atop a microwave tower.
Everything was abuzz –
feathers slicing sideways in their journey to ground,
weak-trunked pine trees holding fast to kyanite perches,
Girl Jamie’s hair in the breeze, the red dirt road
as a truck hummed past kicking up orange clouds.
Girl Jamie snorted the dust from her nostrils
and stripped off her brother’s discarded t-shirt,
her jeans, her socks, her mother’s boots.
Then her old skin.
It rolled off like a tube sock or a still damp snake skin.
It was translucent and marbled with red, purple, brown.
It was a beautiful thing as it struggled slightly with the wind.
It almost had a voice as it stretched into the air and away
from Girl Jamie. She shook it out, released it,
and watched it sail down the mountain side
until it caught in the top branches of a pine.
Already little birds pecked at it
and carried slivers away. I’m going far
Girl Jamie whispered. Then she looked down
at her new skin. Her hairs stood straight out
and even the breezes chaffed her.
She had to grit her teeth to pull on the shirt and pants.
But every step down the mountain
was like two steps in her past life.
When she got home, she saw a feathered
piece of skin barely visible
from the top edge of her mother’s
mother’s mother’s Bible.
She touched it and got a cup of coffee.
Bad Jamie’s youngest son had been gathering up horse hairs
for a month or more. Plucking the mane and tail strands
as he walked along his neighbor’s barbed wire fence.
At night he wove them into an old nest he had found fallen
in the forest. He made a beautiful nest.
It glinted like gold in the sun.
It ran smooth against a finger stroke.
It would do a jay, a bunting, or even a kestrel proud.
The youngest son decided it was finished
and hunted up a suitable tree. A young dogwood
with enough thin but sturdy branches and a trunk straight
even on the cusp of a hill.
He wound extra hairs to bind the nest to tree,
and then checked it week after week
in hopes that his gift would be the home for some beautiful thing.
After months, there was no bird. But there was a tiny red-cap mushroom
directly in the middle of the nest.
A jewel begging for a mouth.
The boy ate it, and later that night his stomach made a braid of knots.
He had sense enough to open the window, and sure enough
he floated right out, like a buzzard on an updraft.