Beauty Is A Cardinal, by Preston Hood

I cannot


being at war

my entire life

like Bao Ninh.

I fought for

three quarters

of a year

a river rat

it seemed…


where in

my body

do I feel

this emotion?

Is there

a center?

a periphery?

in my belfry

sleepless dark

bats can’t

gnaw shame

but a cardinal…

peck…peck… pecking

at the window…?


sneaking up

make me


where is my


my breath?

Preston Hood served in Vietnam with SEAL TEAM 2 (1970). His poems have appeared in various publications, including Salamander, Nimrod, Rattle, and Michigan Quarterly. His chapbooks include A Chill I Understand (honorable mention 2007 Maine Literary Awards) and The Hallelujah of Listening (2011). Beauty Is a Cardinal won the 27th Poet’s Seat Contest in 2018. Email: