Todd Heldt


6:30 in the morning, I hear my mother,
singing church choir over breakfast.
She leads two parakeets she bought
from a mother and son who raise birds
on the other side of town.† She likes the boy,
whoís so poor he doesn't know to say
thank you
for a gift he doesnít want.†
Leaks in the roof have made him too honest.†

Mother sings; not much has changed.
Her parakeets chirp their off-harmony.
She's washing the dishes.† Each sound builds
a cardhouse of first stirring--now a coffee cup
settles on the kitchen table.† Father rustles
the page of his paper.† I bet he thinks the song
and birds are absurd this early. Itís too much,
a morning piling on top of itself.

Because thereís toast beneath the butteró
Mom has no doubts about religion,
and dad wonít admit that he does.†
Across town a woman raises a chorus
of bickering birds, but canít afford
to feed herself.† We try to paint over
the shadow on the wall, throw table scraps
to the dog that digs and howls outside the house.

Still I want the news of waking, and need
to firm it into words, though no one can†lay bare†
what the climbing sun will show.†
Soon it will be time to join them, and
Iíll wash clean the face they gave me.†
In the kitchen Iíll hope for coffee, toast and jam.†
My mother will sing, the birds will chatter.†
Iíll wonder how far these voices carry.

Todd Heldt currently live in Chicago, IL where he works as a librarian. His poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines and he was recently named a Pushcart Prize nominee. Heldt's first novel, Before You Were a Prophet has begun serialization at Hiss Quarterly and can be read online at

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