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A Shadow of a Nest

The Human Cannon Ball climbs down into
      the barrel of the cannon, safe in the tube’s
darkness, waiting, like me, for the film to punch
      him up the metal shaft and into the canvas

air, down-tent, to the inflated landing bag.
      I’m holding my breath because a pair
of purple finches have nested in the exploding
      fuschia next to the door and are gun-shy

when anyone comes or goes, so their young
      are fed more on my family’s comings and
goings than their own hunger. Mother
      flits from the willow to the box elder,

waiting for evening, for a lull long enough
      to poke a seed into a new throat. So I
ask everyone to use the back door which is
      easy to forget to do and not to scent the nest

with our kind, out of curiosity or the wish
      to kiss a berry into one of the four blind
gaping mouths. Father, rosy and raspberry,
      not purple, stays on a near branch, as if

standing on a spring, waiting to see if I will
      have the courage to breathe, when the Human
Cannon Ball is launched into the air
      and turns himself like a maple leaf, a snow

goose feathering into a corn field, toward
      the arms of the audience, which can never
take the place of the pink blown-up plastic
      bag that will save him a few frames and words

from now – if I can stand here, still as a shadow
      of a nest, breathing like the wind that flies
through the weedy branches of the box elder,
      here, empty as the air that needs to take him up.

—Gary Margolis

From Fire in the Orchard
Autumn House Press

Copyright Gary Margolis.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press. Copyright by Gary Margolis. For further permissions information, contact Michael Simms, Autumn House Press, 87 ½ Westwood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15211, [email protected],

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Gary Margolis is the author of five poetry collections, including Raking the Winter Leaves, (Bauhan, 2013). A licensed psychologist, Margolis is the former executive director of counseling and former associate professor of English at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Learn more about Gary Margolis at