A charm of goldfinches flew
from the smokestack of an abandoned factory
at the edge of town. It was more of an explosion really
a bursting forth of sound and feather and soot.
Enshrouded in coal dust and creosote
the charm soared above streets and was widely
misread as a murmuration of starlings—those pestilent
inkpots on wings. Boys ran for their slingshots
having already learned a certain hierarchy
of being. And when the fallen were inspected
the townsfolk could clearly see the citrus yellow
feathers beneath the smudge. A decision was made
to confiscate all slingshots because no one
could judge the long-term consequences of slaughtering
a charm. Hearts fluttered
behind breastbones. The town clock froze.
Residents returned to their homes,
brought dogs inside, locked doors, lit candles
in teacups, pulled old books down from
shelves and sat in darkness by windows
clutching their books for comfort, for memories
of what things meant, for self defense
against whatever may enter.
Kim Goldberg is the author of seven books of poetry and nonfiction and a winner of the Rannu Fund Poetry Prize for Speculative Literature. Her poems have appeared in Literary Review of Canada, Geist, The Capilano Review and elsewhere. Her book, Red Zone, a collection of poems about urban homelessness, has been taught in university literature courses. She lives in a 1940s coal-miner’s cottage in Nanaimo, BC, and is an avid birdwatcher.