Lately my son has been naming birds:
grackle and whippoorwill, crow.
He does not know what these names mean,
or why they seem right.
He knows what a whip is,
the calm birds that sit and watch
from the doorstep his daily torture.
They accept pain so gracefully, he says.
Grackles sit by his window,
look in with pale yellow eyes,
scrape their feet against stones in the garden.
Like air pushed through a broken nose.
A crow has never come to our garden but
if I have a soul, something must be looking for it,
must see it, hidden inside these walls,
even if my son doesn’t.
The crow consumes, he says.
My son has no food but his eyes,
no drink but his breath, left out
each night as an offering.
He asks me to build him wings,
more brittle and hollow bones, to replace
his hands, his arms,
so useless in flight.
He asks me this each morning, begs,
lips pressed against my knees in supplication.
In his clenched fist, a whippoorwill
struggles, beak bloodying flesh.
I can get the timber, father.
I can get everything you need, he says,
smiling at the small bird, petting it,
pulling off feathers by the dozen.