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Tag: @letbirds

Crane Wife

After my mother tosses a sleeping kitten into the dryer

with a basketful of my father’s laundry,

she bows over the kitchen sink for hours,

her long hair hanging like water frozen from a faucet.

She drowns his shirts, twists the bleached sleeves

between her raw fists, like the myth

of the crane wife curling over a loom, weaving

white bolts for her poor husband to sell.

When he discovered her, plucking her own feathers

to spin into cloth, she flew away—

Always we tried to wrangle the newborn kittens,

but with paraffin eyes they wandered under sofas

or woodpiles, and sometimes we found them dead

and piecemeal, the mother cat leaving only

what she couldn’t swallow. At nightfall,

resisting our pleas for red apples she’d be forced

to core and portion with a knife, my mother piles

the still pink-tinged shirts onto the front lawn.

As headlights flood the driveway, she slips her arms

inside shirttails, an origami wingspan

answering wind, answering the whooping calls.

from Surgical WingFind more by Kristin Robertson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Robertson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Incidental Finding

Over five years my surgical scar has cooled

to a pale fault line, the slow tectonics of healing,

but this morning the doctor again unscrolls an x-ray,

points to a ghostlike wisp, and repeats the word mass,

scarier even than the word shark or the word missing.

But not scarier than malignant, from malign, to speak evil of.

I hear it in the hiss through aspens as I wait for pathology,

barefoot on a balcony in a hospital gown and overcoat.

Siblings of ill children skate to the lake’s bull’s-eye

and lie on their stomachs with their ears pressed to the ice.

They listen for the groans and bone-cracks of a body

of water frozen to its core. And with the weight of pike fishers

and ptarmigans, a capsized canoe, and the kids’ warm breaths

forecasting an inevitable spring, the ice refuses, even then, to break.

from Surgical WingFind more by Kristin Robertson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Robertson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Lionfish

After sex I say we need a safe word—

not for rope burns or blindfolds—

but for when he wants to kill himself

and knows, this time, he can pull it off.

He says he’s never seen a lionfish.

I remember before my cousin’s wedding,

as a hurricane backhanded the Alabama coast,

my aunt nestled favors for the reception,

hand-molded, white chocolate seashells,

into coolers of ice in her candlelit kitchen.

From the doorway, my uncle whispered

their saltwater aquarium was starting to die:

five days unfiltered, starfish floating,

algae greening the glass like a rapid frost.

To keep the survivors safe, my aunt dipped

her net into the tank, scooped tang, damsels,

triggerfish, before cornering the poisonous,

feathery predator lurking behind juts of coral

As she lifted the fish and swiveled

toward the waiting plastic bowl, it slipped

the fragile mesh and flailed to the carpet

In the second it took her bare hand to reach

for its striped quills, maybe she weighed

its gulping air against the sting, maybe

she saw herself crying on her kitchen floor,

hovering over the cooler, gazing down

at a seashell, like the goddess of love.

from Surgical WingFind more by Kristin Robertson at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Robertson
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.