Single Red Crow by Stephanie Miller; for more information, visit

The day my teenager moves in with her father, I find an injured bird in the road

by Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose

Though probably infested or diseased 
Though probably it would have pecked out my eyes 
Though probably at least once it shit on my car

Though in the refrigerator we were marinating another kind of bird
Though the rules about which animals we eat versus which we love are arbitrary
Though for a year after I rescued our dog from the shelter, I became a vegetarian 
Though I baked my daughters chicken nuggets made from soy 
Though soy is probably worse for the environment 
Though cancer ate our dog 
Though I started eating animals again 
Though I half-laughing made a rule: only stupid ones
Though birds have no qualms about yanking worms from the earth

Though I sank ankle-deep in sewer sludge for the Burger King cup to scoop up the bird
Though it flapped in iridescent protest and tried to scoot beyond my reach 
Though I didn’t know what to do with it 
Though where I nestled it in the tall grasses where a cat probably got it

Though maybe it didn’t want to be saved at all 
Though maybe it intended to dive for the asphalt

Though the men in the garbage truck that rattled by as I squatted in the road
            probably had a good laugh, knowing the difference better than anyone: 

            what can be salvaged
            what to toss out

The truth is none of us are certain how best to be good

About Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose

Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose’s poetry and prose appear in The AtlanticMcSweeney’s, BluelineBarkNew Verse News, and many others. Co-founder of Straw Mat Writers, she teaches writing in Rochester, NY where she lives with her partner, Brian, their teenage daughters, an adorable puppy, and three annoyed cats. You can find out more @libbyjohnston74 or