The Migratory Patterns of Lovebirds


At dusk, I watch the wind seduce foliage through

the binoculars of an aesthete, taken by how the

petals dance like flames thankful for a brief life.

The days are shortening. An explosion of silence

will arrive soon, the temperature will descend to

indifference. In the wake, tree limbs will resemble

my own fingers: slender and anxious to dress

in whatever is willing to hold them – hopefully

your hand curled around my finger like the foot

of a bird round a branch – but you have made flight

for the weekend, or a season, in search of a warmer

place to nest than the space between my neck and

shoulder. At least, this is what I tell myself when

I feel colder in your absence than is justified by

reading the thermostat. I presume you would call

me a sap for this thought, like a tree claiming it still

feels the beak of a woodpecker drilling its heart for

sweetness. It’s just that I’ve come to see loneliness

as breezes poured too suddenly into emptiness not

ready to receive it, such as my ears at mention of

your name inside a question of whereabouts. Answer:

somewhere over the horizon. But roots like me have

difficulty in moving. Grow to be depended on as

they grow, their anatomy stretched from reaching

for things that aren’t there. Things that lay over the

earth-bend, like you, for a weekend or a season. And in

accordance with the verb of this season, I will fall for

you near September’s end. You will soar over the

horizon until a revolution of instinct completes itself

and lands you in my arms again. You will perch there

and rest. I will support your weight without snapping.

We will pinch the wings of time together with our lips,

so it, a hummingbird with precious nectar, doesn’t fly

off without our consent, because all we are trying to

do is make this last. Make this the last time the willow

weeps a bayou. Make this the last time calling your

name brings a pigeon instead of a dove. Make this

the last time your feathers have itch for movement,

as lovebirds weren’t meant to be migratory. They’re

meant to couple like lines of poetry according to the

meter of their drumming hearts. For some time, your

heart worked without making sound. Gave you life

but no music, forced you to question if you were the

very genus of adoration. But understand you are what

you believe, a marvelous creature blessed with flight

and the luxury of not needing to use it. You, who taught

me that if gravity pulls at each with even temper, the

difference between leaves and feathers lies purely in

my mind, so I think my shoots into aviators, since that

makes us the same kind: two inkblots in the binoculars

of an aesthete changing seasons can’t erase from sky.



Dead Leaves

for Cameron


If autumn is metaphor, it insists the loveliest

things in this world are those leaving it. Dying.

If my life is poem, my little brother is     metaphor.

Lovely. Leaving. Dying.        For the sake of aesthetics,

we can call him November.           It’s fitting flesh. He has

reddish-brown skin and     half his heart is in a grave.

in plotting his own demise he forgot I would be home

come December.      Maybe I’ve been the end of him

from the very beginning. Even our mother

dressed us in synonym. He always struggled

in his English classes; he couldn’t define

himself outside of his relationship to me,

so now he thinks of life as a prison sentence.

We only talk through telephones these days.

I recall                       every call      vividly. One in particular,

sounded like a wrist being slit, a voice running dry,

my brother contracting into himself

like an unspoken secret. A tender laugh

caved between his cheeks. A blush surfacing like smoke.

He burns for the sake of another’s happiness, since he

understands you can’t be a martyr           and die

of natural causes.   So, he curves his mouth

into moth wings. Kisses the heat. Swallows his

pills with a lava flow          of vodka.        Monk-like.

He’d been squinting at his prospects     long enough

to turn the golden-twine of a noose into a halo.

People aren’t leaves despite how easily they fall.

How foolish we are to consider suicides           stunning.

Awestruck by their cold and colors,

so neither finger or protest is raised;

I can only wonder to myself where folk

go once they’ve fallen to the ground.

I imagine he ‘d say they don’t ever reach           heaven,

that he couldn’t find the Lord even while          high.

I imagine that’s the essence of depression, but he knows.

Melancholy holds more     mass      than Catholics do.

He is the heaviest prayer that I have ever lifted.
He needs help, but doesn’t feel easy asking for it.

Not from me. But I understand, because we’re

brothers down to the blue-           jeans we’ve shared.

We both bow out     when bowing down goes awry.
We both draw           into ourselves like wrinkles.

We both know          telephones aren’t happy places.

I wish he would see we have more in common

than the surname chaining our hearts together.

I tell him this, but he can’t see

a locket through the skin.

I tell him his skin should not fear the touch of splinters.

I tell him they are the price of building beautiful things.

I tell him that his spirit is beautiful. I tell him he is black.

I tell him that his spirit should be skeptical of tree limbs.

I tell him to remember. I tell him to always

remember: dead      leaves lives behind.


by Cortney Lamar Charleston

Cortney Lamar Charleston was raised in the Chicago suburbs by two South Siders, but now lives in Jersey City, NJ. He is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and its premier performance poetry collective, The Excelano Project. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Rattle, Word Riot, Lunch Ticket, Storyscape Journal, Chicago Literati, FRACTAL and Kinfolks Quarterly, among others.






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