by T.m. Lawson 

       In their singing, 
they cleanse my ears of all language but that of
linnets. My gaze takes on the terrible gaze of song
birds. And I find that I too am condemned…
-Larry Levis, “Linnets”
Junkyard smile like a wilted spinach side dish
“Who wants to eat their vegetables?” Rhetorical Q&A.
They can cover subjects up with cheese
except when I chirp my glass for a toast
then you have to drink to watered down whines
and god-forbid — think.
Was it eighty times or just that once (I forget)
Aunt Gerald asked if I got that Valentine heart
of a job, the one my ex offered with a ring fitting
swell around my neck. He knew I liked
asphyxiation, like a finch wearing a plastic
six-pack sleeve, dancing in balsamic oil.
If I grate my knife against the fine porcelain
would that defend me from
this dark art of conversation? 
“This mockingbird is delicious” & “I found 
the recipe in last month’s restraining order 
taped to my door” & “Don’t play
with your food, can’t you see we’re eating?” Mom
hissed, pushing a greasy nightingale wing into my ear.
I pecked at her on purpose. I couldn’t help but eat
the sour breadcrumbs leading to the shotgun
marriage aimed at me.
“Play your cards right, beat the House.” 
She stuffed her face like a downtown garbage can
with cuckoo couscous 
because she never ate anything so fancy in her life. 
The table echoes:
     “Don’t you want to win?” I stabbed
a cold breast off her plate to spite her,
hating songbirds anyway.