BY GABRIELLE BATES
Remember the morning you found an owl
in the wire fence?
You weren’t alive to me yet, father,
even my fingers tasted like plums.
All that winter burned on the sill
two plastic candles, fake wax drips
that never slid down, glass flames.
Frozen sparks hovered in every window.
Another force, not taste, not desire,
dragged the shadows from our feet
so long they tangled in the low light
cast over our kitchen floor.
The shadows became marriages.
The wife’s mule became a white Corvette.
When warmth sprang blue-faced
chicories up we ripped them
over our plates. We ate. You told me
mothers usually get custody,
and she became a portrait:
two round eyes, feathered with lashes.
The world was painted last, as light,
white dots riding her irises.
Some other force, not death,
not yet, drew my hands
one into the other, turned them
into an outstretched bowl. How the body
contorts to cradle fruit as fruit
cradles its pit—hard, wormed stone
around which flesh translucent curls,
the effort to contain a miniscule abyss
while widening with intertwining veins—
Who doesn’t want to speak in tongues
of this. Plastic candles wait for their season
in a box. The face waits for dust in its frame.
The wife dismounted her white mule
young, a bough of cherries staining her dress
with the evidence of arrows. It isn’t death.
It’s just tugging each feather
from barbed wire all morning,
fingers numb with cold,
holding its body like a baby under the tail
while you work the second wing free.
Your trash bag full of owl.
The taxidermist shaking his head.
Gabrielle Bates is a writer and artist from Birmingham, Alabama, currently living in Seattle, where she works at Open Books: A Poem Emporium and serves on the editorial board of the Seattle Review, Poetry Northwest, and Broadsided Press. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Poetry, Best of the Net, the Missouri Review Poem of the Week, Alaska Quarterly Review, Washington Square, Black Warrior Review, Passages North, and Guernica, among other journals. She is the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Hugo House, and the University of Washington. Find her at www.gabriellebatesstahlman.com or on twitter: @GabrielleBates.
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