Melissa Stein • Dictator

The quail are back: the big quail,
and the smaller quail, scurrying
to keep up. They’re pecking in the garden,
rooting for seeds or grubs or whatever
quail root for. They’re absurd, these birds,
apostrophes bobbing from their heads,
burbling staccato in their collective fright.
Each time I see them, I feel lulled
lazy, enormous. Each time it’s like
watching puzzle pieces of myself
scattering for their lives,
and yet here I am, above it all,
leaning against the porch railing,
sipping a cool glass of lemonade, coolly
noting that for all the terror of their collective flight
it sounds like nothing so much as umbrellas opening.

Melissa Stein’s poetry collection, Rough Honey, won the 2010 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in Southern Review, Best New Poets 2009, New England Review, and other journals.