“There are a few starlings in there adding to the syncopation,” a woman said to me in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Her safari hat slipped down the back of her head. Her white hair flashed a beat of purple. Her zinc sunscreen beamed in patches next to her nose and beneath her ear lobe. A zucchini rested at the top of her grocery bag, which she lowered to the pavement, to slide her hat back over her head. She needed a proper look at the tree.
It was a searing, raucous din. This burst of discordant, high-pitched tones, like my dad’s side of the family interrupting each other at our Passover seder. I couldn’t hear the music, not like her, because she said, “They’re making a rain forest out of this tree.” On this patch of soil bordered by bright red curb. This area where the McDonald’s, salty and quick and salty, licked the asphalt as the shoppers licked their lips and bustled in. This place that once was sweet cedar-scented and lush. If this were a poem, it’d be:
Beauty of Starlings in the Trader Joe’s Parking Lot
San Francisco, You Haven’t Died Yet
San Francisco, You’re Dying Beautifully
Old Ladies Know About Birds
We Both Stopped
We both stopped.
Ali Littman lives in San Francisco where she is earning her MFA at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Radio Underground (Last Syllable Books, 2018) and her play, “Marla” premiered this spring at the university’s fringe festival. She is the recipient of the Kathryn A. Manoogian Schol Prize in Creative Writing.
Sam Prickett lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where he works as a journalist and makes collages. His art can be found on instagram @selected_sambient_works.