Revision in My Wife's Powder Room


- It has been said that James Audubon once slaughtered a mangrove of birds in order to find the right specimen for a painting.


I’ll need more salt than this. A loose feather
sticks pink to the edge of the bathtub
and slides down to my fist. Her mouth
music boxes shut: its wish against human knowledge.
Inside her stomach—stones and sand and concept.
I can’t ask questions in that language. What if
my strings of English reveal the man I want to be?
My tongue waters at every lagoon, every disjointed
flamingo: the mistakes of God. There are
thousands of them and I will need thousands of them.
When the bird steps forward, her legs bow back,
behind her, toward the man she doesn’t know
will fit her to this canvas. Bend her to the
face of God. Grace I’ll need more strength than this.


Copyright © 2013 by Lauren Berry. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 18, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"Last summer my then nine-year-old stepson and I were reading a contemporary fairy tale about a family of birds that could talk. When I finished reading the story, Will made a joke that flamingos were 'the mistakes of God.' As a native of Florida, I was wildly curious about this idea. He told me, 'You know...their legs bend backwards when the bird steps forward.' I began sifting through images of flamingos painted by James Audubon and the poem sparked somewhat wickedly into existence from there."
—Lauren Berry