On our way from carrying
A load of winter-sprung rocks
To the hedgerow,
We check the bluebird boxes.

For lack of measuring tape or string,
We break pieces of dry grass
To measure the dimensions
Of one box in need of a new bottom.

Another box seems full of debris
From the previous year,
But as I empty large wads
Of gathered straw and fur and detritus,
I come across five eggs,
Brown, speckled dark brown.
We replace the nest and eggs carefully,
Tamping down the sides to return
Some semblance of the original nest.

Junk birds, my mother will later say,
As we lift an aluminum pipe off the fence post
So we can check the contents of another box.
Sparrows. We should have destroyed those eggs.
It’s not hard to understand; sparrows do not need
Our stewardship. Still something jolts my stomach
The same way, I suppose, the previous year
When I faintly burned the tents from the crab apple tree,
Even though the caterpillars had long since left.

And yet, something else clings to the knowing
That it is my mother, not me, who builds
The bluebird boxes, who keeps the farm
At her expense clean and green.

Here yet another box has two pale blue eggs,
We look but do not touch. If she remembers,
Mom will bring vaseline to grease the pole,
Further protection from rats and field mice.

And surely she will pass that other box,
Usurped by another species, not wanted
But that can fend for itself, than warrant even,
The sanctioned sanctuary of God.
Perhaps she will rest there from the struggle
With the next cartful of rocks,
Or perhaps their momentum will pull her
Forgetfully forward. I do not care to ever find out.

Brash Ataom is known for writing poetry inspired by artwork in Washington DC, specifically at Artomatic. BRASH poetry appears in many publications, including Hysteria, Mediphors, Kalliope, Catbird Seat, Radiance, and The Greenboro Review. Interactive projects include Studio Gallery, Carroll County Community College, Warehouse Gallery and Theatre in DC.