From   her   perch   on  the  docent’s  gloved  wrist,  she
watches   us with the eyes  of any creature handled  too
much:  featherless head a closed door,  body a mask of
silence.   In   the  steep   twilight  descending  like   the
backwards  count of a  nurse’s  voice leading  a patient
into  unconsciousness,   the   handler  explains  to  our
circle   the  generalities    of   the   species—the    turkey
vulture’s    primary    form     of     self-defense   is     the
regurgitation   of   semi-digested    meat    that  is   then
vomited      onto     a       predator’s        face—and     the
particularities of this one, who had come   to them with
a broken wing.  I, too,  have places on my body  knitted
back together by unseen hands,  scars laid while I slept
the   sleep  of  the  unknowing:    one  above  the    belly
button,  and  another  below where   two  fingers   must
have parted the dark hair before shaving a path.   Does
she remember  the first faces to peer toward her  as she
surfaced?  Every time  I try to write  what those   hands
did,  I end   up  plunging  my own   fingers deep   inside
until  I  pull  up the voice  of the surgeon  in post-op:   I
usually have to pay women to take their clothes off for
me.  Oh, the shudder of her black-feathered shoulders.
Oh, the bile rising in her throat

Copyright © 2024 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.