About George and his Feeding a Street Rat

by Alex Nodopaka
PenShells
Third Place, January 2014
Judged by Robert Lee Brewer


When my dear friend and I visited Alcatraz Island
we were entranced by paying a call to the cell where
we thought the Birdman of the Rock resided.

Back home we joked about that day
knowing inmates befriended mice, cockroaches,
flies and angels. That was many years ago.

George died before the television monitor,
his Greek fisherman hat askew
keeping his bald pate unnecessarily warm.

Captivated, his glazed eyes were still focused
on the snowy static of the plasma screen.
The tape still, inside the player,

a classic black and white movie,
Birdman of Alcatraz. I wonder if the wild rat
he fed nightly in his kitchen

misses the cheese of him as much as I still do.


One thing that stuck with me the first time I read this poem is the subject matter: Alcatraz, the Birdman, and his rat. An interesting (and focused) subject is always appealing, but this poem does a few more things I like. First, it offers up a lot of details about both the Birdman and the narrator. Second, the cheesy line at the end of the poem works because it risks failure. --Robert Lee Brewer

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