2 poems by Buffy Shutt

Sundays on Highland Avenue


The Sunday of life which equalizes everything

and removes all evil. —Hegel


I bend down Franklin Avenue and it all seems okay.

I love America.


The Church where the old AIDs banner still flies.

Valero’s gas prices still low.


One earbud is swinging a podcast at me,

the other in a tango with my sunglasses.


A dark object appears in the passenger’s footwell.

I reach for it, nearly crashing into the black car in front of me.


A senselessness spreads across my back. I turn off the radio.

I shift to unseat the stickiness


but it keeps spreading as big, as bland, as beautifully lit as

the San Fernando Valley.


I glance up at the palm trees— sentries on Highland Avenue.

In the queue they scrutinize my documents,

I think of Sundays with my Mom.


Pocketing the Straw


His father taught him to hoot like an owl,

in the suburban Maryland woods where

they sat side-by-side, night-after-night.

Stumps peered out like tombstones;

the grass, frozen and defrosted a thousand times,

was straw.


But before he

saw the green beauty,

heard the green beauty, 

knew it lived inside a tree, in a nest, in his father’s sigh,

he was a first-born,

a sly mimic.

In and out of love

with his father.


Their all-night vigils now over,

The father never heard his son make the perfect call—

so perfect he was arrested. 


Three counts.

High in the gallery a parliament of Owls

huffs a shadow across the jury.


First count:

Your hoot gave false hope to this Screech owl

searching for a mate.

The defendant hears “your marriage is dying”.

Second count:

Your hoot lured this Barn owl’s fledgling too soon

out of the nest.

He hears “you are a bad parent.”

Third Count:

Your hoot alerted a predator to this tiny Saw-whet owl.

He hears “disloyal son”.

Guilty.

Three years.

He hears “thirty.”


On the cement floor of his holding cell lies

a piece of straw.

The Owl comes to visit him in detention and

pockets the straw.

I could bail you out,

the Owl swivels his offer.


In his tight ruffled shirt, the Owl reminds

him of the lesson

in each hoot, in each all-night vigil.

Disordered, confused,

called to account,

he weighs the Owl’s offer.


Chancing only his own-dead would hear,

he hoots—a perfect breath-taking law-breaking blast.

The green beauty drapes his cell.

He inhales his father—that certain sigh, his nod—

so quietly

nothing stirs.


The Owl stands back, discards the straw and

vanishes.

He should have mimicked

a finch, a cedar waxwing or

even an Eastern blue bird,

any other but his father’s Owl.


__________________________


Buffy lives in Los Angeles. A two-time Pushcart nominee, her recent work has appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Rise Up Review, Bird’s Thumb, Toasted Cheese, Burnt Pine and Dodging the Rain. She was awarded Cobalt Review’s Earl Weaver Prize for the baseball issue. She has marketed many Hollywood movies and documentaries.