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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Poem: 189 words
By Lesléa Newman

Birds of a Feather

Nightingale 8-6969 
was my grandmother’s phone number; 
Nightingale as in Florence, 
Florence as in my mother 
whose Yiddish name, Faigl, means Little Bird. 

The Little Bird was a Night Owl 
who married my father, the Early Bird. 
He flew out of bed every morning at 6:00 a.m. 
—no alarm needed—
singing “April in Paris” 
or “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” 
or “If Ever I Would Leave You.”

My mother threatened to leave him 
if he didn’t pipe down 
but he was never one to walk 
on eggshells. “The early bird 
catches the worm,” he reminded her 
which further ruffled her feathers. 

“Who wants worms?” She glared 
at him from her perch 
at the kitchen table, pecking 
at the bagel he placed before her. 

My father merely laughed, 
my mother having wormed her way 
into his heart many decades ago 
when he had taken her under his wing 

and built her a love nest 
where they lived for 63 years, 
birds of a feather 
until the morning Faigl flew the coop 
and left my chirpy father 
for the Great Aviary in the Sky. 

Lesléa Newman
Issue 23 (April 2024)

has created 86 books for readers of all ages including the dual memoir-in-verse, I Carry My Mother and I Wish My Father; the novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; the fully illustrated poetic biography, Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard; and the children’s books: Sparkle Boy; The Babka Sisters; Joyful Song: A Naming Story; The Boy Who Called Fabulous; Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies.

Her literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two National Jewish Book Awards, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award Honorable Mention, and a Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award. From 2008-2010 she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA.

Author’s website: https://lesleanewman.com

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