By Suzanne Marshall
After They Quarrel
Another blizzard on its way, he sets out to push back
chest-high snowbanks along their drive,
clear space for more. But nights of sleet, melt-freeze
have hard-packed the snow to ice. Three strokes—
his shovel breaks. Beard grizzled with frost,
he grabs a metal garden spade, thrusts it into
the frozen wall. Ramrod strokes, he jabs again,
again, splits the ice, shards flying; then
plants his legs, drives the spade into cracks, pries
ice chunks free, hurls them over the bank.
He kicks another with his boot, chucks it away.
And when he’s done, stands back,
scans the broken snowbanks—
plenty of room for what’s to come.
It began as a kindness,
nights and days well below freezing,
snow covering the ground.
Before breakfast, I’d lay a handful
of peanuts on my deck. I remembered
my mother scattering nuts and seeds,
calling the jays.
And they came. At first only one.
A flash of blue, he stood before my offering
in crested hat, suit edged in white, a neat
black collar at his throat.
Cocking his head, he picked up the nut
in his beak and flew away.
Word spread. By the end of the week—
a mob of jays, all bravado and strut,
descends on the meager feast
with wild squawks, scolding and
hawk imitations meant
to intimidate. They swagger
and brawl, flap their wings, peck
and shove at each other, grab
what they can get.
Chickadees, banished to the oaks, witness
the fray, as I do from my window.
One last raucous squawk and they’re off—
only feathers and broken shells left behind.
Minnesota-born and raised, Suzanne Rogier Marshall taught English to middle school students for nearly forty years, publishing several professional articles and a book on teaching poetry. Her poems have appeared recently in Portage Magazine, U.S.1 Worksheets, Watershed Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Tule Review, and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of Blood Knot, a chapbook published by Porkbelly Press in 2015. A few years ago, Suzanne retired to the mountains of New Hampshire, another “up north,” where she enjoys canoeing with her husband, tracking bobcat, and practicing tai chi.