"Scrub Jays"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 9 2011 10:13 AM

"Scrub Jays"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Ishmael Reed read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Free as a bird

You wish


And cross old man

Glaring from the

Kitchen window

As I stab my beak into

The choice apples at

The top of your tree

You can ball your fists

All you want

You can grit your

Plastic teeth

But there's nothing that

You can do about it

What good are apples

To old men, anyway

You have lost your bite

You have run out of

Ladders to climb

Your ultrasonic solar-powered

Animal repellent

The Honda among dissuaders

Might rid your garden of

The capo cats, but

The bandit raccoons

Figured out that one

Within 48 hours

Getting rid of one pest

Only invites others

You're in your 70s

And haven't learned that

Now that the coast

Is clear, our entire

Family can fly in

I know

We are warble-less

We are born thieves

We'll steal an acorn

From a woodpecker

We've beat you out

Of your harvest

We, who are not the decorous

Fluorescent song bird of your



Ishmael Reed's latest novel, Juice!, was published in April.


The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.