mother’s worst ex as seabird

by Cayenn Landau

under the sink, graham rises from his nest of suede dress shoes, and 
steps forward into the kitchen. today we are making a cake for my mother’s birthday.
he makes amends with the trash stuck to his withered talons 
instead of washing them clean,
and cocks his briney head, shakes his wings over the batter
and with that we substitute pacific sand for sugar.  

when i crack an egg into the bowl he scoffs and says my technique is off. he says he was with his
son last night and he doesn’t understand why my mother is upset that he missed her calls because
he just said, he just said, he was with his son last night. obviously. 
there’s oil leaking from his pores
and i turn away as his orange beak clicks open
and he retches up fishy breakfast into the compost bin. 
i put the ingredients away by myself.

by the time the cake is in the oven,
there’s a ring on my mother’s left index finger that sparkles almost-blue like it belongs
by the time the cake is out, 
so is the secret. the ring is gone. he’s moved in with the other woman, a bright-eyed heron who
glitters in a creek down the street.

when he first introduced himself and said i’m an ornithologist i should have said i know
your heart is as finite as your wingspan
. but when you’re twelve, every bird is a free thing, warm and
a cake we made together, eaten together, forks clinking whatever comes before i-love-you.

i'm still finding his feathers in the kitchen. i'm still pulling his feathers from my mouth. 

back to University & College Poetry Prizes