/abigail goodhart

Queer Thirteen Year Old, In Leotard

our gym had a wall-length mirror,
the team lined up across from itself,
the air between us and ourselves
fogged with chalk dust and sweat,
the air glimmered with work—
smokey like bars were before
I was allowed into bars.
In the moment before warm ups,
I would try to look at our angry bodies
in the glass, try to will my eyes
neutral and male, to see if I had any appeal.
Mercifully, our coach split the stillness:
we sprinted at our own reflections,
territorial male cardinals
hurtling through the asthma air,
I forgot reflection,
forgot appearance,
felt, not like a person, but
rather like a bright light in a blonde wig
I quit gymnastics later that year,
I did not know how to be in love
with a thing I was not suited for.


                       In 1890 Eugene Schieffelin introduced Starlings, birds native to Europe, into central                               park. Legend has it, he was attempting to bring every bird mentioned in Shakespeare                             into central park.

I imagine the Starlings, imagine there were only two,
beasts embarking the Arc, swaying with the ship
in cargo, a Victorian cage. Rich men
no longer allowed their human cargo still want
their cargo to breathe, to own the breathing.
Own the yellow beaks plucking their feathers pitiful.

I imagine the Starlings, I imagine there were only two,
an Adam and Eve in their fig leaves, banished from Eden,
hopping bravely onto the stolen earth, Starlings,
mentioned only once in Shakespeare
—in a history for chrissake, not even a tragedy,
not even a poem—flapped delicately into central park
and swiftly took revenge—they rose out of New York
like a villain, like King Kong, Starlings, stomping
the continent with great feathered feet, Starlings
taking down a 767, shredding their fingers in the engines,
Starlings slithering around the hooves of dairy cows,
stealing the best morsels of grain—
dairy farmers call them feathered bullets, bullets!
In the way that bullets take and take. Starlings
nesting right outside of our bedroom, their acid shit
corroding the bricks under the utility box they nest in.

Starlings are the only birds I’ve seen this month, these
little shits have waddled their speckled bodies into
this poem, invasive species, I condemn how they go
where there are no natural predators,
what a sin it is to thrive.

Abigail Goodhart received their MFA at Western Michigan University. They have published poems in Atlanta Review, Passages North, and Lake Effect. Their collection Neither Kind of Body was a finalist for Indiana Review’s Blue Light Book Prize and as a semi-finalist for the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize at BOA Editions. They live in Columbus, Ohio with Molly Grue (the dog) and Garrett Merz (the human).