First grade and my father shows me I can whistle to the chickadees and they will answer. I learn at the bottom of our driveway waiting for the school bus.

Around the same time, I learn that the delicate parts of food, like broccoli florets, are digested by the body…

from the desert, once a week

I am woken around one in the morning to the sound of a bird in pain. I have never heard a bird in pain. Their voice—a quail’s, I think—is strangled. Their call is slowed down and dragged out. …

from the desert, once a week.

Sometimes, when I whisper for my cat to join me, she does. Hops or crawls up, her thick pink belly swinging. She folds her paws under herself and stares at me, angles herself to be pet the way she likes.

Other times, she will…

from the desert, once a week

A bird calls. I forget to listen to it. Someone else answers. More bird, better bird, good bird.

It hurts and I don’t say anything. Silent bird, quiet bird. I just don’t have it in me right now. Little bird.

I play records and…

from the desert, once a week

I would like the ocean’s small mouth noises in a tub in my backyard. What does that say about me?

I am sad and the clock, which is fine, tells me it is 8:36am. …

from the desert, once a week

When God was still good, I was seven. I drew my name on the manila sides of my bible and thought about the boy I liked who sat a few rows behind me. …

little bits from the desert, once a week.

Last night I had a dream that you said, “Tell me everything” and I knew where to begin. I can’t remember where that was now.

Here, now, is the desert. Early morning where the windows can still be open and I watch…

written after Mary Ruefle’s MONUMENT

A small world had ended. Like all worlds, it was made of time. The Canadian-American border stood between us would never vanish. I had moved to the island because you were there. I had flown back and forth, and you had been still. And now…

To the people
who speak about American education
like they know
how it feels to ruffle the curls
of a boy who
was kept in an oven
before they sent his father to jail

Who ask me why I sit
on carpet, concrete, ground, floor
before standing above a child
Who think thrown…

All the parts of me count for something, are useful for something

Photo courtesy of author

It found my mother’s face first, when my pointer finger was more hand than finger, more foreign connection than mine. It was probably the one on my right hand. I don’t know the first time I pointed it at anyone, but I know some things it used to trace. …

Amanda Oliver

OVERDUE: Recknoning with the Public Library forthcoming from Chicago Review Press March 22, 2022 • amandaoliver.com

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