Nothing in this world is ever what it sounds like.
Not the northern shrike, an aggressive mimic,
a predator resembling prey, who in summer keeps
silent, in winter opens throat to resemble
smaller songbirds, luring eager passerines
to the source of the song,
nor the prospective acquirer,
who during a hostile takeover may propose
a tender offer, the premium over market price
wriggling like a worm to lure shareholders
who inevitably acquiesce to the hunter,
admiring the blood on his snout.
Perhaps no offer is ever tender, in the ways
we hope for tenderness, and every kindness
is shrouded like an orchid mantis
atop a stem, its flowering jaws ready to clamp.
Ross White is the author of Charm Offensive, winner of the 2019 Sexton Prize, and two chapbooks. He is the director of Bull City Press, an independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the editor of Four Way Review. He teaches creative writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the associate director of The Frost Place Conference on Poetry. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry Daily, Tin House, and The Southern Review, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswhite.