My father disliked poetry, and my mother didn’t care for poets. Why? I asked my mother. She said she’d always admired James Dickey, since way back when, as if that explained everything.
Dickey? I asked.
James Dickey, my father said, rolling his eyes. The man who wrote a poem about falling out of an airplane.
What’s wrong with that? I asked.
For crying out loud, he said. Your mother was so excited about James Dickey. That’s why we had a big party for him when he was visiting the university. Everyone came. Members of the English department and literary folks from town. There was the usual drinking and carrying on. But you know your mother isn’t interested in a drink or a crowd. She didn’t hang around.
I was there for at least an hour, my mother said.
Twenty minutes, my father said.
Like I said, my father said. You know your mother. She likes to have a party and leave once the guests arrive. I had to hunt her down. I should have known she was just out back, looking at the birds like she always does.
I like birds, my mother said.
I don’t know why I gave her those binoculars, my father sighed. And that new birdhouse.
I like watching birds with binoculars. The bluebirds were moving into the birdhouse I had just planted on a pole. I didn’t know when they’d move in, and they did it during the party. My mother’s voice was rising now.
And that’s where Mr. Dickey must have found your mother, my father said. Why he went back there, I don’t know.
He was drunk, my mother said. And needed air.
Who knows what he needed? my father asked.
He was having trouble walking. He came up behind me and lifted the binoculars from my face and peered into them. My mother was starting to blush.
Is that why I found him with his arms around your back? my father asked.
He was looking through my binoculars.
Why exactly, may I ask?
He said he just had to see what I was seeing, my mother said.
And did he see it?
I think that’s when he saw you, strolling across the lawn, my mother said.
Honestly. Who does he think he is? What did he think he was doing?
He was just doing what poets do, my mother said.
And that is? my father asked.
Pretending to be interested in the birds, I guess.
Nin Andrews is the editor of a book of translations of the French poet Henri Michaux entitled Someone Wants to Steal My Name, published by Cleveland State University Press. She is also the author of 5 chapbooks and 5 full-length books of poetry. Her collection, Southern Comfort, was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010.
Photography by Eleanor Leonne Bennett