There Is a Bird in My Mouth
I found it on your belly, and caught it
with two fingers. I kept the bird
on a little perch behind my ear.
I plucked its feathers, stuffed them
against my jaw like chewing tobacco,
and spit the black threads
into a styrofoam cup. One night
the bird died. Crushed beak, split
bone—we did it. Your heart
jealous, my body disgusted
by the taste of seed and bark—
we didn’t want the bird.
We did it over dinner,
you reached into my memory
by placing a finger
in my ear. I placed a hand
in your mouth to catch the bird
and we smashed it
together. This is simple, we did it
and spoke of it with ease. Through
the memory, we killed
the bird that was never ours.
Now we’ve become
bird butchers, you say
and throw the bird’s limp body
in the trash. I reach to clasp
your face, but have lost
both my hands. Each finger
disappeared into your pupils,
our little black cruxes.
Copyright © 2015 by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
“On a walk with my grandmother we came across a dead bird. I offered to rescue the bird—to bury it—but my grandmother told me to leave it—dead birds are a bad omen. I still wonder if the bad omen was brought on by seeing the bird, or by leaving it.”