Victoria Nordlund


“Hope” is the thing with feathers– Emily Dickinson

Open Door to the Garden by Konstantin Somov

My friend Sharon told me that as she listened
to a student debate whether or not to go through
with an abortion, a cardinal crashed
into her classroom window. She watched it die.

We had to Google this immediately– because aren’t cardinals
supposed to be dead relatives, or spirit guides,
or guardian angels? Apparently hers epically failed
opening the door to that other universe.

And we discovered the word cardinal meant “serving as a hinge”
in Latin, which I found funny because this all felt
so unhinged. It must mean something, she said
staring at the screen. Everything must mean something

I was raised on Catholicism mixed with a smidge
of New Age Oprah mysticism and sometimes took
comfort in found feathers and bird song divination.
This was a Cardinal experience, the website told us.

And we beheld it– sunk and tuneless on the white ledge.
After I went back to my classroom, a student told
me that her online friend killed himself.
She was leaving school early to attend his funeral.

Said she felt sad that the first time she would see him
would be in a box. I told her I was sorry. And she said it
was OK. And I told her that it wasn’t. And as I brought
her to her guidance counselor, I wanted to hug her

and tell her that I have witnessed too many wings break,
that I have a friend that texts me again and again
that she wants to die, that she just doesn’t see
any meaning anymore. Vic, I’m so sorry–

And it kills me every time she sends these messages,

and that every poem is always about the Goddamn bird,
and that it is a miracle that the window didn’t crack,
that I still haven’t closed the blinds.


About the writer:
Victoria Nordlund is an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut. Her chapbook Binge Watching Winter on Mute will be published in Summer 2019 by Main Street Rag. She is a 2018 Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Gone Lawn, Maudlin House, and other journals.

Image: Open Door to the Garden by Konstantin Somov (1869-1939). Oil on paper laid on canvas. 46 x 38.1 cm. 1934. Public domain.