Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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from Effusive Greetings to Friends

Swallows flew into Ms. Hicks’s

summer camp classroom Hazel Hicks knew
herself to be a child like other children
as ants know they are like other ants &
it was so hot that day Miss Childress
propped the door open hoping for cool air
but what she got was two barn swallows
swooping into the room like little souls
frantic to find the bodies they’d fallen
from Ms. Hicks thinks now that the memory
has her in its spell & the children put
their hands over their heads & squealed
while the birds rocketed against the wall
of windows but Miss Childress sat calmly
& watched the creatures a little crooked
smile on her face which was probably what
freed Hazel not to be afraid as the other
children were but to sit still even though
excitement and pleasure kept ricocheting
through her body & Miss Childress wanted
her help & they both felt something those
others couldn’t feel & when Miss Childress
stood up slowly so as not to panic the birds
even more Hazel stood up too & moved with
Miss Childress toward the windows against
which the swallows flung themselves & flapped
their pointy little wings & Miss Childress
raised her hands toward one & Hazel raised
her hands toward the other & they kept
moving slowly & calmly Hazel knowing to do
just what her teacher was doing—She was
only 16 then Ms. Hicks thinks now Not that
much older than I was—Hazel was 9 & this
was the wildest moment of her life & yet
she & her teacher were moving so slowly &
carefully it was like a dream & Hazel was
the first to trap a swallow down in the
lower corner of the window and catch it
in her hands—Yes, she did that!—then
Miss Childress caught the other one & she
carried hers to the table to show the other
children & Hazel followed her the little
birds’ heads sticking up out of their cupped
hands the other children put their faces
right up to the birds’ heads & Hazel felt
that swallow’s heart thrumming in her palms
& she followed Miss Childress outside into
the heat & light & they looked at each other
& Miss Childress had that crooked grin on
her face & Hazel felt her own face smiling
& they put their cupped hands close to each
other so that the birds’ beaks almost touched
& Miss Childress raised her eyes to the sky
just a split second & whispered “On 3” & she
counted & they lifted their hands & opened
them palms up & Miss Childress shouted “Go!”
& the swallows zoomed up & out into the light
& Hazel Hicks may not have understood exactly
what had happened to her in those minutes but
—& Ms. Hicks still feels it in her body—
that was the instant that child became herself.

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