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Unterberg Poetry Center

When the wild turkeys attacked, Loretta
threw stones. The fuzz on her head felt
like peaches. One morning she got stoned,
baked a crumble, took out the chrysanthemum
plates from her last trip to Chinatown. In late winter
in Jersey the ground freezes, the sidewalks
near her house sometimes crumble.  

When the wild turkeys attacked, Loretta
was mostly bald. Now she wore a scarf on
her head with fuchsia flowers. She called them
crazy jakes, teenage males suffering
from premature spring fever. In Jersey
they made headlines on the evening news, once
interrupting when she was watching Dance Fever.

When the wild turkeys attacked, a mailman
was stuck in his truck on Esplanade Drive
for two hours. They perched on his roof. They pecked
at his tires. In Jersey they were everywhere now,
along with raccoons, with coyotes, with deer
and with turtles. Once she had felt it was pleasantly
pastoral. Now they stalked joggers. Now
they snatched food from a child on a tricycle.

When the wild turkeys attacked, Loretta noticed
destiny had a funny way of always finding her, like
a shadow. Tomorrow she would go into town, and after
the doctor treat herself to the new CD by Destiny’s Child
(her favorite song was Survivor). Now she could hear
the crazy jakes gobbling outside on the stones. In Jersey
-- the hormones starting to flow.

In awarding her the 2016 Rachel Wetzsteon Poetry Prize, Emily Fragos writes, “Nature has run amok: a town is being overrun by wild and procreating turkeys, those ‘crazy jakes,’ and I won’t soon forget the poor, almost comical mailman, trapped inside his little truck. With each refrain, ‘when the turkeys attacked,’ the situation grows more harrowing and hard to control—like Loretta’s cancer. Much is said, much is left unsaid. The local and the personal rise to the universal in this marvelously witty, lucid, detailed, and unsentimental poem of vulnerability and survival.”

Liora Mondlak is a poet, visual artist and educator. She grew up in Mexico and lives in New York City with her teenage daughter. She makes artists' books and teaches art and poetry workshops to children and adults.