“Do Not Hold the Birds” by Carlene Kucharczyk was selected for publication by Mid-American Review poetry staff in Volume XLII, Number 1.

When I read this poem, I can’t help but think of those little workshops that Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other home improvement retailers held back in the day. The ones kids would be dragged to by their parents on Saturday mornings. They’d be handed planks of wood, hammers, nails, screws, and other tools they had no clue how to use. An aproned employee wearing a ball cap would walk everyone through how to build whatever was on the agenda for the day. Mothers, fathers, older siblings would do their best to reign in their little builders, trying to guide their soft hands, hoping they could complete the project, bring it home to show off to the rest of the family. 

Sometimes they’d build birdhouses. 

And while they never turned out quite as expected, there was an element of unique beauty to each of the misaligned walls, the splotchy paint, the circular hole that wasn’t exactly quite a circle, but worked all the same. 

I like to think some of those birdhouses became homes to our little, winged companions. 

In “Do Not Hold the Birds,” Kucharczyk captures the beauty of creation, the synergy within the shared melody we have the opportunity to experience with nature. The poem acts as a guide for how to live in concourse with these earthly elements we’re rather lucky to be in conversation with.

The poem opens with the lines: “Do not hold the birds, do not make / little homes of your hands, do not ache / into a man. He will be silent”

There’s something so gripping and enticing about the beginning of this poem. If we are not to hold the birds, then what are we to do? Kucharczyk responds to this question with ultimate grace and flowing language that tingles our poetic taste buds like a cup of coffee on an April morning out on the back porch—the air buzzing with birdsong and other nice things. 

What’s most impressive about this piece is its subtle ability to subvert our expectations near the conclusion. We finally learn what we are to do with our hands, with the birds, and with our lives––and we are better off because of it. 

––Caleb Edmondson, Mid-American Review