I find the feather stuck in the muck
on a path down to the swamp.
It is the color of stale dishwater,
beads of mud clinging to its edges.
The damp barbs are matted, like dog fur in the rain.
The tip of its quill is cracked, and I scratch a mosquito bite
with the shards, sharp as pencil points. I brush the feather across my cheek.
It smells like earthworms, tickles like my cat’s whiskers.
Don’t put that thing near your face, it’s filthy!
My mother’s face is locked in the frown she has worn
since we left Massachusetts two days ago to drive to Florida.
Are there alligators in that swamp?
The sparkle in my father’s eyes suggests he is joking,
but the campground owner showing us around nods soberly.
Oh yes. Don’t let your little girl come down here alone.
My mother stiffens.
Smiling, I slip the feather into the pocket of my jean jacket and stroke it
like a talisman.
About the Poet
Bridget Rawding is a librarian, writing instructor, photographer, and emerging writer in the greater Boston Area. Her work has appeared in FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University, and lives in Lawrence, Massachusetts with two melodramatic cats.