Amanda Roth

Cardinal Directions


            I suppose, looking back, the birds 
            did start each day with a warning. 

                        I just never thought it was for me. 

            We are disappearing, you and I. 

            We keep looking for the life we can no longer remember. 

            Every day, I become more
            stone-faced, even as I tell
            the birds I want another chance
            to feel beautiful again. 

                        I wish I knew another way. 



            Listen, I just wanted to feel 
            my own strength 
            vein through my body 
            like lightning, like the beating 
            back of air with impossible wings. 

                        Is this why I became a mother? 

                        Only gods can birth new worlds.

            Except my bird 
            body was pinned back, 
            opened, stitched back together. 
It still doesn’t feel like home. 

            Scars bramble 
            through my body, keep me 
            close to the ground. 
            At this point, we are only 
            bird-shaped boulders. 

                        I only wanted to drink the sunrise, 
                        to not feel so empty so young. 

            I am growing moss. 



            In my next poem, I want to stand 
            on the roof, ready to fly. 
            When the horizon flashes green, 
            I won’t question the magic. I will launch myself 
            off of the gables, past the trees, and into the night. 

            Why is this so hard to believe? I am not yet 
            old, only the age of my mother 
            in all of my memories. She forgot 
            to tell me the way home. 

                        I only know that the wind in the trees sounds like an ocean. 



            I know I don’t have to explain 
            myself to you—

                        sister, bird, stone. 

            Tell me again 
            about the cardinal—how she arrived 
            with the long winter, 
            snatching sticks and gathering 
            the safflower seeds we had scattered 
            in the snow. Remember how we marveled 
            at her olive-red feathers— 

                        she betrayed her name, 
                        like all women named after men. 

            We watched her weave a nest
            from forgotten things. We tried 
            on her fire-mouth. When the thaw
            arrived, we heard her fly away. 

                        I didn’t thank her for showing me the way.

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Amanda Roth (she/her) is a poet whose work explores motherhood, embodiment, the climate crisis, and revisionist folklore. She is the author of the full-length poetry collection, A Mother’s Hunger (2021) and is featured/forthcoming in Wild Roof Journal, Marathon Literary Review, Moist Journal, Sunday Mornings at the River, Vaine Magazine, and elsewhere. After nearly two decades in the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Central Texas with her husband and two sons. Find her on Instagram @amandarothpoetry and Twitter @amandarothpoet.