By Ron McFarland


The Montréal Review, November 2023


Self-Portrait as Broken Home (2008) by Julie Heffernan


Spent too much time this morning
watching a squirrel negotiate
our feeder by the patio.

How desperate was he to get
more than we think he needs?
Good Mr. Nutkin, good American.

Go for it. Go for my suburban
lifestyle symbol, my Audubon
squirrel-proof bird feeder

equipped with my ingenious baffle
contrived to keep you distant,
where you belong, in some other,

less desirable, neighborhood
or part of town or country but
not in my back yard.

Self-Portrait with Look Out Tower (2013) by Julie Heffernan


Sometime between lopping branches and chopping
down that diseased old birch that shaded
the eastern, master bedroom side of our house,
I thought of George Pope Morris’s best-known poem:
“Woodman, Spare That Tree,” a sturdy oak
that might have lasted out the century
instead of being metamorphosed into furniture.

Thinking in ten-year terms, Confucius advised
planting trees, and so does Weyerhaeuser,
thinking of timber harvests and lumber.

Dad used to say, “No matter what you think,
you can never unchop-down a tree.”

Self-Portrait as Heavenly Body (2003) by Julie Heffernan


I confess, I scattered a small, hopeful
handful of seeds for the newly fledged
tatter-winged bird (a house finch?)
before carefully strangling it.

I confess, it cheeped as it died, nearly
wringing my bird hunter’s heart as it
forced me to think back to various quail,
gray partridges, pheasants, and mallards,

those species unlucky enough to have fallen
prey to my scatter-gun, as Dad called it.
I confess, the death of those game birds
rarely touched my refined sensibility then,

but this pathetic creature near the stoop
stopped me dead, I confess. Though I’ve not
been one to shed tears over such matters
over the years, age may have caught me up.


Ron McFarland is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Idaho (Moscow) where he taught for nearly 50 years. 



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