Northern Flicker

Read by the author.


by Kathryn Jordan

Featured Art: “Bird Notes” by Madara Mason


It hits the window like a woman being thrown

against a wall. “Must have been an owl,”

I say to my grown girl emerging


from her part of the house. “An owl? 

Could that happen?” she asks. She takes

a torch into the dark alley while I remain


in my well-lit living room, protesting,

“I don’t want to know if it is or not: 

I mean, how could I save an owl?” 


Because of course it would come down to me.

The next day, a beautiful bird lies dead—

a Northern Flicker, red spot at its throat, white


and black speckled breast, wings limned in gold

rust—a color I can see when the creature

rests limp and quiet in my two cupped hands.


We bury its loveliness under a glass dome

in the garden to keep it from being torn apart

by ravening crows. She offers prayers and


suddenly I’m looking down the wrong end

of binoculars at my daughter, who announced

when she was six, “There’s no way to leave


this world until we die.” “Yes, I think you’re right,”

I agreed, trying to calibrate words to her age. 

“It’s like a trap,” she said, then.


Twenty years later, at home for her own protection,

she says it again. “Choosing safety over my dreams;

it’s like a trap.” I recorded my child’s words back then


because they hit my heart just as a woodpecker

might, if, flying fast, it couldn’t see, didn’t know,

it was being pulled into its own reflection.




Kathryn Jordan received her MA in English at UCB. A music teacher and poet, her book, Riding Waves, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She is the 2016 winner of the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference Prize. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in New Ohio Review, The Comstock Review, Wraparound South, Birdland, and Roar, among others. She is an avid birder and loves to ramble in the East Bay Hills, translating bird song to poetry whenever possible.

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