Lantern Review | Issue 7.2

W. Todd Kaneko

The Birds Know What They Mean

The birds say, Minidoka—

what I mean is that the juniper
is full of life in December,

hardy sparrows, oblivious
to stories about birds
who lose their tongues.

They mean that we can remain
invisible, as if a ragged tree
could be an icebox,
as if it could hold every bird

in America. A man can speak
about history, as if orchards
have never been tangled

in barbed wire, as if a man’s family
could never be packed up, delivered
to a concentration camp in Idaho.

I say, Minidoka—
what the birds mean is that
there is no such thing
as safety, barely shelter.

Photo of W. Todd Kaneko W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014) and This is How the Bone Sings (Black Lawrence, 2020) and coauthor of Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). A Kundiman fellow, he is coeditor of the literary magazine Waxwing and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches at Grand Valley State University. • Photo by Tyler Steimle

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