Taking Down the Nest
by Jack Freeman

Over the course of four days
two mud-swallows soared
under our back porch and erected
a nest of twigs, sticks, and dirt.
My father saw them swoop in.
He watched, his eyes watered,
for he could see the nest forming
in the light of early morning.
My father grinned in the window
and called it a marvel, that they could
build in such a rugged construction
site. His smile sunk to a frown
when he turned and murmured
that the nest must come down.
We took the shovel from the shed
and a black trash bag from
the kitchen cupboard. We walked
out and stood in the leaves and debris
and stared up at the hardwood eave.
In the ceiling, a ham-sized ball
of peeling muck, lice, and straw
stuck out from under an oaken beam.
A male and female flew around,
rose and fell on beads of air, sailing
to and from their nascent home.
I raised the bag, opened it wider
than I’d opened anything before.
I shut my eyes and grimaced
as the shovel scraped and shook
and I breathed deeply when the bag
gained in weight and specks of sticks
and twiggy dirt spat all over
my hair, naked arms, and shirt.
My father grabbed the black bag,
twisted and tied the top in a double knot
and asked me to toss it in the trash.
At arms’ length I held the bag
and made my way in vacant reverence
around the house to the garbage bin,
listening to the chirps that gasped
out of the plastic.