The Bird Goes First
Enter handle, crank, shaft
and suddenly man controls nature.
The birds elongate their postures
and become a dream of their own
making. Sounds curl in their
throats. We crave to wear the masks
of other creatures. I would like to wear
the mask of an ancient bird
with eyes that can’t hold tears.
The beak is only a phallus
when imagined by man.
It is difficult to decipherer
between the clouds and the down
of the swan’s belly and more difficult still
to refrain from reaching out.
To be seduced by a swan is
to believe that beauty equals
goodness. Out on the pond
I’m told they kill their young.
When I climb to the top
of the ladder, attached by a string
to a hummingbird, the string means
we both know I lack courage. In the end
I wont fly or try to fly, especially against
the backdrop of this white sky. It’s hard
to see the stars over my head or that my feet
are carefully encased in plaster. The bird
goes first. Another incomplete circle
draws blood. There is no denying
the scythe, round as a breast
or a belly, but less forgiving. Ravens
haunt the edges of the canvas. Feathers
and hair the same shameful black.
When the light hits it, a mirror
most terrifying. Feet bare to the ground
signifying sin, unnamed, but winged.
Crystal Condakes Karlberg
This poem was written as part of the surprise ekphrastic poetry challenge on birds. It responds to multiple bird paintings at once.
Crystal Condakes Karlberg is a graduate of Simmons College and the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. She writes looking out her kitchen window where she often sees cardinals, house finches, blue jays, woodpeckers, and the occasional Baltimore oriole.
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