night spawns the shapes of dark birds
suspended legless on their wing tips,
loping like stilt walkers
ragged in their gait.
i saw the moon curve its ridged spine against your cheekbone once;
a crescent of bristled fork tines, spokes,
tendons forming ridges under the skin of my hands.
i thought of you while she combed my damp hair over my face,
a curtain of blond tatters to veil my eyes.
the birds walked hunched under their winter cloaks,
only graceful in flight.
they pull themselves, dripping
from the cluttered dark of your pupils,
leaving sparse haired brush strokes
where their wet feathers drag.
when i stood still they used to flock to my twisted arms.
my body was a filter, a valved artery for the world’s slowing traffic.
they grinned under their beaked masks when i sang,
when my ribs creaked and opened.
a jew’s harp strung between broken teeth,
the striated palette.
i hummed under your bow once,
an instrument gutted.
inside me is a world of oil-dark pistons,
a rhythm madder than the heart.
my hands unfold embossed in red seams,
anemone flowers petalled in boneless fingers.
this is where they cut me, i told you.
this is where the flesh-tone doll’s parts were grafted;
blank ugly sutures, a torturer’s braille.
this is the cartography of the blind.
my body is scarred in botched attempts,
a city untouched by grace.
sometimes when i lie awake at night
i can still hear their scraping laughter.
her back arches,
the sky filled with battering wings.
i live on the banks of a tar-black river;
its silence swallows everything.
she bunches the skirt around her hips,
crumpled gathers of white netting.
the birds take form under her hands,
bright eyed in the pooling ink.
they tug like kites
until she cuts them from their puppet strings,
with the clatter of hollow quills.
my flesh rasps, i tell her.
there is nothing that could appease me.