The Fourth River

Tributaries, The New Nature: “Outlanders”

By on January 24, 2018

Selected by Ira Sukrungruang


By Dheepa Maturi


I remember a mangled mallard,
a blotch of emerald, a blur of brown
on the dirt road, and though I’d been
told never to touch a bird because
they carry diseases, a heartbeat is
a heartbeat, and I placed one hand
upon him, and the other upon the earth,
so that all of us could weep together.

I remember a mangled mallard,
who dodged pellets and spittle and
crouched under a bus seat that
smelled of sweat and tennis shoes,
and she timed her ride by the pulse
in her head so that she knew when
to crawl out of the hydraulic door and
fall into the green grass that loved her.

I remember a mangled mallard,
who flailed from a man’s mouth —
it’s kind of funny to shoot and watch
them crumple to the ground — but it
was a party, so I swallowed my own
throat-burn, stumbled to the shadows,
found the avian iridescence, whispered
yes, your existence had meaning.

I remember the mallards, all of the
mallards. Together, we thrash and wail
until we locate our home in the ether,
until our cries smooth to a symphonic line.
We are the shamans who must honor
our own streaks of life.




Dheepa R. Maturi is the director of an education grant program in Indianapolis and a graduate of the University of Michigan (A.B. English Literature) and the University of Chicago. Her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Brevity, Every Day Poems, Tweetspeak Poetry, A Tea Reader, Mothers Always Write, Here Comes Everyone, Flying Island, Branches, Corium, Dear America: Reflections on Race, and The Indianapolis Review. Her short story ‘Three Days’ is a finalist in the 2017 Tiferet Writing Contest.”