Litany to Leave the City
Listen for the chickens of your mind, truck shocks
rusting in their throats, & for angry hens revving engines.
Listen to this old woman shuffle sidewalk, so close
to chickens tearing up your father’s lawn. Listen, don’t
compare women to chickens & expect safety from
saw-happy crickets, semi-auto katydids, or your neighbor
who has never been drunk & will shoot you for speaking.
Remember these are falling bodies. Remember
your father breaking wind, the quake, that that thud
before your knuckles bounced off your best friend’s ribs
was forbear to his crab-walk scuttle from apology
& know these are entrails of lives you cannot remake.
Listen, chickens remember their whole lives how to fly,
& few will die without one hopped fence. Remember the chickens
eviscerated frogs as the hawk chose which to kill,
that your father found it flapping talon-deep, the hen too big to lift.
Listen—you will never hear it coming, neither here
nor home, though every quiet second here
is a strung-up beauty dripping. Listen if you hear
voices & train your ear to know by rote what sews,
& if no voice, then speak, recover gone tongues
through signifiers & signs you understood one summer
were like a beetle’s six plucked legs strewn about the body,
scissor-lipped maw gnawing nothing, the chicken
scratch eighth notes of its 6/8 movement
heard then only in shelled wings & feet unbound.
Remember you built with your father a cage to keep hawks at bay.
All day, his chickens snip grass around.
At the Starling Tree Outside Delaware City Library
A leaf twirls & arcs through the air, & I follow the path
it cast back to the branches, starlings stemmed on every one, each
bird a dead black fruit rotted so ripe it's come alive again,
singing at its resurrection, ignoring that it comes from
the apple painted into Eve's palm or Adam's clever mouth,
first man to throw his wife under a bus—& I bet something
died under a wheel of this blue van rusted & waiting
in the ditch across the street for some idiot to say Yes,
that is the best nine-thousand I'll have ever spent, & mean it,
though I remember nine-thousand seconds I spent walking stone
passageways that opened like butchered throats onto wind-teased cord
grass around Fort Delaware while I listened to the echoed
footsteps of the girl I loved scuffing beside my friend who loved
her too, & whom she loved, those two who wouldn't stop & never
will, who never turned a raised eyebrow back & swung a hip out
like these girls practicing routines, challenging each other
backed against the library bricks, who, because our hips haven't
hit us yet, I am studying from under this tree of birds
they might mistake for crows if they were tuned enough to eyes to
notice mine or that I’m cursing myself for never learning
how to dance with anything but the breath of still-dead dead or
that I keep hoping for one girl to screw it up—not so
I can watch the others drop their arms like hanged men's legs & let
them sway, but so I can hit their steps with her, love the body
I was breathed into, stomp & thrust a bony hip toward the
starlings & watch those fruits unfurl, take off in a birdshot
bubble & even though it hasn’t happened yet, we’re learning—
me, these girls—to turn our backs to a world we can’t face
& then to face it, step to it like the catwalk models we
should have been or really are, standing off-kilter akimbo,
holding the wild hum of our bent hips like threats, staring so
hard at the world’s faceless heart we beat from it a silence
we break with our own hearts’ bleatings, our singular songs born a
little older every measure, a little fewer, every
beat a little harder & a little easier to drop.