Photograph by Madison Poulter

mother unfolds
his flannel
        in their room,
the cotton stinking
of potash
        and smoke,
to redress
the scarecrow
for months—mouth
unsewn, filled
        with stars—
in our field.
Mawpin. Bird-scarer,
at our barbwire fence.
His denim, too,
unwashed, untouched,
last year’s soil
in both knees
from kneeling.
        They’ve returned,
the rooks and sparrows,
sensing absence,
the silence of his rifle.
        They’ve returned
to fat themselves
on his harvest.
Outside, we knot
the ankles,
tourniquet the sleeves,
stuff chaff
and straw into this father
costume, a guard
against a hunger
        he knew too well.

By Brandon Courtney

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