by Zeynep Bayirtepe
art by Angela Shang
haunting the halls is the soul of a songbird
who feeds on words and stains
it chews them to a pulp no
substance left just
and it stops singing and starts spitting
swallows vitriol and
drip drip drips from my lips sounds so
it rips some god apart
breaks my neck
cursed to look up and up and
up to a heaven ablaze
cracks my head open
look inside look
what is left behind
who trails orpheus through hell?
i would stay as dead as a doornail
sickness is heresy
i leave my skull ajar
and i feel sicker than ever
the poisoned little bird cries into the sky like a little girl
and kicks and struggles like a man
this makes for a mighty shadow, shifting and full of knots
you would think it belongs to a vulture
who tells stories profane to history
hoards words in its nest so vulgar
until they resemble a house.
(rome had no chance, nor did the ottomans,
they loved the thrill of having
with the touch of a beak, the bird makes empires fall
leaves a trail of their crumbs as it flies away
keeps the return in its clenched fist mind
a storied homecoming, just to find a tapestry sublime
and adamant and angry in its wholeness.
i do not look up
not for an omen
not for a god
i look down
to search for pretty pebbles.
pick them up,
feel the weight of a punch of earth packed
under a smooth skin
in my sweating palm there is proof
i take i take to give
under perfect guidance
tell me, nurses devils muses
with my pockets heavy with pebbles
is it a crime to pray still?
when i catch myself trying to sew shadows onto a nevergreen parade of nevergrowing bodies,
my darling friends have to lick my papercuts open.
they see the hearth burning crashing
and burning. they wax and wane
quench the thirsty fire
lend me kisses to sign goodbyes.
i hold translucent grudges
i mean no harm
i mean what i say
the songbird flies to kiss the bowl of reflected light
that will bring about the demise of the taker and its sorry wings
a night sky painted with ashes once the sun abandons it.