BIRDSONG LONG BEFORE I WAS BORN

by Alice Campbell Romano

Outside my room the virago stakes her claim,

her shrieks like red streaks on mothballed ships

rotting over decades in the harbor at Nanking

 

where I have never been—but here I am, poised on the

cliff, disguised as an impossible hummingbird, beak deep

in a red hibiscus bloom, to sip the screams of men about

 

to be beheaded, women raped, babies dashed on rocks,

just some more horrors of war and not even our war,

though a case may be made that all wars are the wars

 

of all of us. And on she rants, heaping her displeasure

on my drunken father whose retorts sound as pale thunder:

far-off bombs that pound factories and spew collateral

 

of kitchen sinks and baby blankets. I can’t close my ears.

Neuroscientists put babies into scanners now, see tender

gray matter ignite as actors shout furious nonsense.

 

The more conflict at home parents report, the sharper baby

brains light up. No wonder we love war. At last, we connect to

our parents, even to their wrath, with our own angry noise.

About the Author

Alice Campbell Romano workshops her poems at The Hudson Valley Writers' Center. She is a native New Yorker who spent more than a decade in Italy, adapting Italian movie scripts into English. Her work has been published online and in print journals. She is completing her first chapbook and full-length collection.