national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

Nesting

Meg Pendoley  • 
Tufts University

Why do the sparrows choose the house
with the rotting roof? They nested
there, on Lake Street, between sagging
porch eaves and asbestos shingles,
before the roof collapsed in August.

 

But then they stayed—little nests spilling
from gutters, strewing straw and dog hair
over gray snow, the burning pans Kate threw
out the window in December, cooled
and charcoal-coated, just now surfacing.

 

In the morning starlings scream, strung out
across the neighborhood on telephone lines,
black bodies shivering. At least one egg
or naked bird falls. The cats eat them.
Little nests spilling and you’re trying to catch them all,

 

all their pieces spilling while mother baked
crescents in the kitchen, all night toasting
nuts golden, grinding white flesh to paste.
Outside sparrows, songbirds, homemakers,
are wet in the wintry mix. Spring in New

 

England is a time for nesting. They don’t
know when to leave, when it is snowing
in May, pink children nestled up to rot
wood, yellow egg teeth tearing through
each other until they are big enough.