First the Feathers
The woodcock lies still,
head lolling towards the weight of his long beak,
matt black eyes camouflaged in mottled brown.
I tug the silken down
against the grain with steady thumbs,
mindful not to break the cobwebbed skin.
Bared, the breasts are cool and smooth.
I crop the twiggy legs:
small claws gesture from the feather pile.
The wings I open like a book:
press down, stretch out the elegant pins,
scissor through the shoulder joint —
use a knife for the sinews and skin.
Turned over, the back is quick to pluck.
Incongruously large, the head and feathered neck —
I cut them off, the long beak faced away.
The white-mounded rump is stubbled
by pale thick-rooted quill stumps:
with the knife point I enlarge the vent,
finger out the looped beige guts.
Squeezing beneath the wings I probe
for organs, anxious
not to squash the little bundle out of shape.
How clean it seems, trussed neatly —
though I can’t erase the trace
of talcum-powdered belly
from my fingers.
(after Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife)
Grinding the octopus against a rock
to tenderize its dense white flesh, he sees
the clustered suckers on its arms, and baulks
to contemplate the breadth of what it feels.
Onshore she dreams him diving deep for pearls,
lungs closed, eyes wide, hands combing through the weed
where oysters are concealed, their ridged shells curled
around each tiny iridescent seed.
The artist halts with blade in hand, to think
how images cut into wood with steel
will come to life where paper meets the inked
woodblock — his inner reveries revealed.
The dreamless sea embraces every grain
of sand — more salt than blood, wetter than rain.