Kill the Birds

Poetry / Carolina Hotchandani


:: Kill the Birds ::

I live my life as the heroine 
of a novel I am authoring.

Hers is the story of a woman who moves 
from Chicago to Vermillion, South Dakota, 
to follow her husband’s job.
It comes with better benefits than hers.

The story she tells could be my own,
or it could be the story of insurance
and the things insurance makes us do
when we feel the soft spot 
on the baby’s skull and imagine the world 
impressing itself upon that head.

I could console myself:
the new insurance is spectacular.
It slays fears like a great, muscular hero,
thundering into the scene astride a horse,
making me blush like a virgin in an 18th-century novel—
a foil for the heroine I’d been molding.

At the university where I begin to work,
my students ask for leave to go pheasant hunting.
Their hunting excursions are sacred, they say—
religious rites, or practically so.

Miss class. 
Kill the birds.

Confer upon a lost life 
a meaning. A pheasant 
knocked out of flight,
hurtling over the snow, 
will be your glory.

What’s vermillion, I wonder,
about this white, white town.

Outside my window, the striped cornfields
write new lines onto my brain.

How dare they, I think.
I’m the writer, after all.

One day, walking along the gravel driveway,
I spot a dead fox—
a splotch 
on the snowed-over corn stubble.


From the writer


:: Account ::

I am intrigued by how we relate to the fic­tions that we con­sume and write—how we project our­selves onto char­ac­ters and, if we are writ­ers, how we can become moved by our own cre­ations, as if they were not enti­ties we’d brought into being our­selves. Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein had a pro­found influ­ence on me in my youth, and as I grew into adult­hood, I revis­it­ed it, read­ing it as a por­tray­al of how the artist’s cre­ation can be a mon­strous mir­ror, a beloved, a ther­a­pist, a sin­is­ter twin. Writ­ers often speak of writ­ing as ther­a­peu­tic, but I’m espe­cial­ly tak­en with the ways that writ­ing can haunt and cast strange shad­ows on “real” life.


Car­oli­na Hotchan­dani won the 2023 Peru­gia Press Prize for her debut poet­ry col­lec­tion, The Book Eaters, released this past Sep­tem­ber. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Alas­ka Quar­ter­ly Review, Black­bird, Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal, Cincin­nati Review, Poet­ry North­west, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, and oth­er jour­nals. She is a Goodrich Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish in Oma­ha, Nebraska.