Sent from the breakfast room on a Sphinx' errand, I became
not childlike, as charged,
but windowseat nestling, small bird roosted in red moreen.
Outside the glass, sea of slick grass and storm-stripped shrubbery,
the lowering November light like a chilblain;
inside, Bewick hatched in my lap. I was feathered and sistered
among the pale fjord-birds, at home
on islands of rock in the midst of shocked ocean, the battery of waves—
the sea teaching the ghostly birds nothing
but how to be more like themselves: each storm-beat bird still bird.
Enter cousin John, gorged, dinge-skinned Caligula
looking for something to smash that would satisfy by staying so
and finding my feather-light frame like a constant cough,
my white face a bull’s-eye midst the scarlet curtains.
These were my choices: to be hit and break,
or to be hit.
What does the pugilist teach the battered punching bag,
the archer or rifleman the target’s straw-stuffed shadow?
How to snap back to center after the blow.
How to take the loosed dart like swallowing—
Launch my own kin at me: Bewick's leaves flapping like wings,
the blunt edge of the binding cruel as beak or talons,
cruel as a night closed in the Iron Maiden room, walls grisly
with velvet burnout and the house's terrorizing, spike-bled ghosts.
The next time your hands fall on me, I will bend to brute will,
the next time, I will be obedient
the next time, but not before
you see me felled, bloodied and still Jane,
the next time, know your hands fall not on me
but a whole flock of wildness, a wet-winged avian legion,
my voice like a cold wind screaming around the haunted rocks,
calling what's outside in:
come, rat, mad cat, bad animal,
come unfettered thing, come small bird to fly fly,
reveal the frail gray thing to be red-pinioned,
my blood sprayed indelibly on the page in the shape of a wing.
~ by erinn batykefer
~ by erinn batykefer
from ".... (a) new book, which is still in the draft phase and tentatively titled "The Book of Monsters," (this book) weaves together two series of poems: one, a lyrical re-imagination of Charlotte Bronte's novel; and the other, a series of epithalamia that focus not on the traditional event of a marriage, but the moment when a person makes an irrevocable choice."
Bewick, Thomas - author and illustrator of "A History of British Birds", 1797 and 1804 respectivelyxxx