Jeff Friedman

Born in Chicago, Jeff Friedman grew up in St. Louis. His fifth collection of poetry, Working in Flour, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2011. His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry ReviewPoetry, 5 AM, Agni Online, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, Quick Fiction, New England Review, and The New Republic. He is currently working on a collection of fables, parables, mini tales, comic sketches, prose poems and other prose pieces. Homepage:


Old Bird

Old bird is creating a commotion again, flying around the room with his big stinky wings as he rages on about injustice.  “Buy now, suffer later,” he shouts. Feathers fall over us, sticking to our shoulders and faces. “Come down,” we say. “Have a bite to eat.” “Not until the time is right,” he answers. “The time is right,” we say. “Besides you’re not an angel.” “I’m a prophet,” he says. “You look more like an angry bird,” we say. Now he’s bumping the walls and the ceiling. Plaster comes down in pieces. On his next swoop, he causes the light fixture to crash on the floor. I toss some of the pellets into the corners of the room. “Food for thought,” I say.  He eats them like cookies. “Got any more,” he asks. The stench in the room is so strong we cover our noses with our shirts until one of us grabs him from behind, and then we strip his wings and toss them in the trash. “You won’t need these anymore.” Without his wings, we can see clearly his bloated belly and the ugly expression on his face. “I’m a prophet, he says as we truss his legs, stuff him with onions, and put him in the pot.



When Herkel returned home, his lover had become a cup of black tea. She had been sick for days, lying on the couch with a plaid wool blanket wrapped around her body. He squeezed some lemon and honey into the cup and tasted the tea. “Your lips are cold,” she said. He shivered. “Tea doesn’t talk,” he answered. “I’m not tea,” she said, “I’m your lover.” He sipped the tea again, still bitter. “Why are you drinking me?” she asked. “I’m cold,” he answered. The blanket was crumpled on the couch. He sat down on the couch, pulling the blanket over him. “If you’re my lover, why don’t you speak to me?” “I’m only tea,” she answered. He squeezed a little more honey into the cup and tasted her again.  Now she was sweet enough.

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