That spring, as I hauled boxes into the new house,
a pair of swallows started building their nest
at the entryway tucked just beneath the eaves.
A fascination at first, watching their erratic swoop
toward the trees and then the quick veering
back with beaks full of scraggy twig. They played, too,
around and around the clear pond next door,
skimming their stomachs along the surface.
Coming home at night, I would glance up
and see them perched smugly in the overhang,
flanking the near-finished nest and plainly ignoring
my regular traffic. Good neighbors enough.
But then droppings began to splatter the windows,
the welcome mat. My first houseguest assaulted
by a volley of indignant screeching. Half a cookie
pecked to crumbs, as the grocery bags reste
just a few short minutes on the doorstep.
Finally, splotches of white on my favorite shoes.
I knocked down the nest with a garden rake,
muttering under my breath. The birds darted out
squalling alarms, flapping an elliptical partrol
but gradually realizing they had no fort to defend.
For a time, they hovered, with intermittent prattling.
Then wingbeats, then silence, and I was alone.
In the morning, grown remorseful for my victory,
I hammered wooden boxes into nearby trees
as a peace offering. But the swallows did not return
that spring, or the next. My living continued,
a parade of empty houses and uncharted cities,
each time the landscape rebuilding itself around me.
In the calmer years I wonder after them,
my fork-tails, my rudders in the turning wind.
KIM-AN LIEBERMAN is a writer of Vietnamese and Jewish American descent, born in Rhode Island and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She studied interdisciplinary humanities at the University of Washington before earning a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her debut collection of poetry, Breaking the Map, was published in 2008 by Blue Begonia Press. Her poems and essays have also appeared in Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, ZYZZYVA, CALYX, Threepenny Review, and the anthology Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace.
A recipient of awards from the Jack Straw Writers Program and the Mellon Foundation for the Humanities, as well as a finalist for the 2009 Stranger Genius Awards, Kim-An has been a featured reader at venues including Richard Hugo House, Seattle Public Libraries, Skagit River Poetry Festival, Portland's Wordstock Festival, the San Francisco International Poetry Festival, and the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York. She has also spent many years in the classroom, teaching writing and literature at every level from kindergarten through college.