By the shrinking border of the forest there’s a bird that’s learned
to imitate a chainsaw. In a language I’ve forgotten, power
is a synonym for violence. And there’s a song—
something about a knight thrown from his horse
deep in the marshlands, drowning beneath the weight
of his armor… my grandma used to hum it to me, bouncing
on her knee. But this bird, it waits for the long rains, the mating
season, and threshes the air with the ripcord in its throat.
The most successful songs end in dead trees dotted with nests
like florets of brown marrow curdling in snapped bones.
Sometimes I think of contrails as buttresses keeping the sky
upright, sometimes they look like ropes between lost ships
and sunk anchors. My grandma used to say Heil Hitler
at least a dozen times a day at school, at home
her father polished the skulls on his uniform. I didn’t know
what it meant, only that if I didn’t say it, they would beat me.
In my lost mother tongue, Gift means poison. But this bird,
it can only sing the chainsaw song one time before its voice
burns out. I want to know the etymology of semaphore,
the declensions of silence, I want to mean what I say
in my sleep. Put your ear to my wrist: you can hear an ocean
dying in my withered, in my withering blood.
facilitating the infinite copulations
of the switchboard–headsets, cigarettes—
lacquered nails like hummingbirds’ beaks
pulling and thrusting frayed voices
from one line to the next. I’ll patch you
through, the call like a skin graft
stitching a wound’s edges together. Please
hold. Voices trellised through the woods,
voices scuttled through the ocean, voices
sprouting out of living room walls.
They had to use both hands, back then,
one for the earpiece, one for the mic,
so that it looked like they were cradling
their heads. That’s how I’m sitting now,
in the car, in the garage, my phone on
speaker in the passenger seat bothering
a satellite to blare my slack voice back
to you. I know you’ve taken too many
soliloquies tonight. I hear it
in the way you say suicide. Way back,
a hotline didn’t have a dial, there
was only one place it could go. I’d like
to talk about this, if you can stay
awake. I can hear your eyelids, how heavy
they are, like drowned bodies
dragged days later from the lake.