You are standing alone in the doorway
as they back out of the driveway,
everyone waving except the driver
who needs to think about where they’re going.
Now the house feels like you hosted a wake.
They promised to teach you to Skype, but it’s
hard to embrace their wavering faces,
which seem as unreliable as the Hereafter.
You did not share the pain their absence makes
or your dubious faith in the law
of object permanence--your fear
that when you can’t see them they don’t exist.
Before you play the wounded bird
think of the charadrius vociferus
commonly known as the killdeer.
Because she builds her nest in shortgrass fields
and sometimes parking lots, nature compensates
with a behavior called injury feigning.
She attempts to protect her fledglings
by making a strident and piping sound
as she hops on the ground,
and flaps a fake broken wing
hoping to fool the cunning coyote
with a plaintive over here, over here.
As I walk down a country road
and harken to her cry,
I reply, “I am not your enemy.”
Driven by fear and destined by nature
ever to be the wounded bird,
she’s incapable of grasping that distinction.
Nancy Harris McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for over twenty years and Conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College , and the Great Basin Writing Project . An Elko County native with a background in ranching. McLelland has presented her "Poems from Tuscarora" Both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, "Border Lands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon" is in the anthology Cowboy Poetry Matters .