Seven years ago…

Tonight, on the eve of Ry’s birthday, I’m remembering my long night of labor.  I wrote this for a mixed-discipline dance piece I performed years ago.  For some reason, this year, this poem feels fitting.

The Vulture

When she opens her mouth, tilts back her head and laughs
a cloud of feathers billows out of her
each single feather
silver, brown, black
takes flight as a carrion bird.
These are her children, awful and beautiful
shining, soaring, searching, and always
waiting for you to sleep
to carry you, in pieces
in more directions than we have names for.
As you lie in that place you watch them above you
pieces of you dangling from their claws
they coast, soar and spiral
wheel and pass
they assemble and disassemble you
and when the last ray of light angles up, fades and disappears
they silently float away into the purple sky
each on a different breeze.

Or maybe you’ve seen the mother.
Maybe you see the circling, circling of some shadowy thing
in the place between being and un-being.
You may glimpse it in the half-moon light
between dream and awake
or at the intersection decision of going or not going on –
the tickle of pinfeathers at the back of your neck.
It will tempt you, try to draw you near.
Then, while you sleep
it will pick your bones clean itself
carry the pieces of you to its roost far away
feed its new babies on you
if you’re lucky, when the children fledge
the parts of you are reborn into something new.
In this way, nothing ever dies
a faded love, a forgotten dream, that great idea
you can’t      quite      remember
these things don’t just burn out.

She opens her mouth
and laughs
and in this way births her children
scatters them on the wind to every shadowy corner world.
After a long time, she herself grows old
grows dull.
She calls all her children back to her.

They circle above her all day
black clouds of them and as the sun begins to set
they come down lower      lower
land heavily on the ground      circle around her
her shuffling, hunching brood
feathers rustling      eyes blinking
eying her hungrily.
She smiles at them.
Opens her mouth
and swallows her startled children whole – every one.
She breathes deeply
closes her eyes

in the blackest part of night
she waits
and digests things
until the first red streak of light appears in the morning sky.
Then she opens clear, unclouded eyes
and looks around her as if for the first time.
She can choose any direction that pleases her.
She steps into the world.

photo and writing copyright 2011


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