Carolyn Williams-Noren

My Daughter and Her Best Friend Made Blue Jay Masks at Camp

I asked my dad when I was her age,
Do grownups have best friends?
He played tennis every morning
before work for a decade
with the same three guys and said
over and over fifteen
love, thirty love, but hardly
conversed. The masks started
as balloons, newsprint papier maché
then brown, then construction paper
dipped in paste—white, the black beak,
blue, torn and in shades very like feathers.
A blue jay’s neck is longer than a girl’s,
so the blue jay necks have holes
for the girls’ faces and ears
and the blue jay heads rest
on top of the girls’ heads—
and the girls tell me birds’ eyes
only see to the sides. Look at me,
I say, to take their photo together
in their masks and flapping feather
smocks and blue dresses chosen for the
day. Look at me with your
bird eyes. So they turn sideways—girl faces
right at each other, bird profiles tall,
bird eyes—one apiece—
looking right at the camera.
The beaks point not at each other but
one up and one down as though
each bird just happens for this moment
to be standing this close
to another of her kind.


Carolyn Williams-Noren lives in Minneapolis and works as a copy editor, writer, and teacher. Her poems have appeared in AGNISalamanderGigantic SequinsSugar House Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Small Like a Tooth, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2015. She is the recipient of a McKnight Artist Fellowship (2014), Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants (2013 and 2016), and a Loft Mentor Award (2010). Carolyn loves the chocolate-pecan-bourbon confection known as Derby pie.

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