* * *
Portrait of Chanel Miller as Swift
From the air, everything dwarfed:
trumpet vines bright
against the languid morning,
the salt ponds gleaming tiny,
pink scales on the earth’s skin.
You, from here, a gray blur
in your sorry varsity sweatshirt
checking metal pumps for dents
after the judge deemed you
the red under your eyes
the last of a stain
someone tried to scrub,
your newly shaved head
so soft I might press into it
with one talon. God said
earth would be wet
and kind. God in the glint
of the skyline, in the mouth
of the sea on the shore’s soaked
and ravaged skin.
God gone from the dumpster
from its green, sticky stomach
where I was pulled.
Now, the others
become briefly quiet.
The news moves on.
For months, I soar,
the air thick with aphids
and I’ve swallowed so much
I could offer you some, regurgitate,
but there’s no rebirth, no penance
in this sick that comes after.
We’ve been made to need so little,
anyway: no breaks, no pause.
Only fits of sleep on each descent
and when I wake, it’s the wind
pushing her palms against me
* * *
Worship at the Tar River
If the heron broke the world into motion
as the Egyptians say, loudly, alone
with her inaugural cry,
what does she lift into us?
I watch the bird rise in the sky,
wooden planks lining the shore
from another storm-wrecked peer, cypresses
crowded with styrofoam and driftwood.
Before breath or light, she was first to fly
fresh from her own spontaneous birth.
My womb aches for her beak, scratching out
tiny, grateful scars. In my mythology
she snaps limbs from the willow
so I can curl the branches into crowns,
teaches me where to tighten
the loop into another lethal thing.
Trying to harden me, a friend shares
her recent horror, the long blue bird
gulping down a nearby gaggle of ducklings.
I make myself small enough
to travel down her. Half-listening,
I wonder of her hunger to eat the living,
if something in me, too, might break out
in a great screech, hunting already.
* * *
Every time I dodge those small bodies
of the ones that didn’t make it,
their mothers swoop angrily as I run past,
trying not to get gut or tiny bones stuck
in the entrails of my sneaker soles.
We live like this: avoiding the blood
of others. I dream of cardboard towers
filled with evacuees, opening up as I walk past,
the cop car blaring its noise already.
In the dream, I keep my steady pace, eyes
trained ahead. When the police come,
I worry most about my misparked car,
my small and comfortable dailiness.
I dream of sneakers dripping something dark,
of the young birds, plunging, as I watch
without catching, my empty hands.
* * *
Zoë Fay-Stindt (she/her/figuring it out) is a bicontinental poet with roots in both the French and American south. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, EcoTheo, Muzzle, and others.