City of Robins

Inspired by Todd Smith
Sometimes you smell like rain—
the new early rain that makes us think spring
is coming, the rain in-between,
just catching up to April but leaves
breathless, before joining.
How can one thing morph into another
so slowly without us noticing?
How can one thing look like another,
only to have sloughed off its own voice?
You tell me never to ask why
so I’ll ask how instead:
How could we have mistaken
a secret city of robins in the fields
for each other?

Sarah A. Etlinger is an English professor who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her family. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of two books, Never One for Promises (Kelsay Books, 2018) and Little Human Things (Clare Songbirds, 2020) as well as the forthcoming The Weather Gods. Interests include baking, music, cooking, and traveling. Find her latest work at