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Kerry Rawlinson

the girl who swallowed a bird

An Allegory of Domestic Disputes by The Master of the Fertility of the Egg

she can’t speak.           she can’t break
break break constricting shells &
escape. desperation is raven wings

buffeting           is pinions detaching;
is acid-panic; is beaks & septic claws
raking her gullet—but deliverance

won’t hatch.           time bends,
stretching backwards like neck
tendons dragged by anvil wings.

the bird flew          into her throat
from marsh grass when birdshot
sprayed, when glaciers melted

into fingerling streams,           when
a firming lad climbing flame trees
& acacias, laughing & tanned, racing

towards           limbs of manhood
was hers. but no longer. no leaves
of laughter unfurl  for cover. no

together place           to land. now
the banks of the river widen, expanding
the gaps of comprehension, rocky

& mute. she can’t            explain. now
she swallows birdscreams & pinches
her arms blue begging black reality

to loosen           its talons, to stop
pecking his red initial S into her wrist.
people’s platitudes eat their way

into her bones,           boring them
into hollow tubes; into passages &
phrases she can’t translate. we all live

unhinged,           bellies filled with
worms. no squirming boy-baited trap
exists that’s able to coax her from

her jungle of thorns          & razorgrass
& brambles. no cans of illicit lager no
back seats of parents’ Pintos no dark

movie theatre          gropes no trembling
teenage kiss can free the swallowed
bird. it nestles in the gristle of her throat

& builds          its prison. it lays its egg
of ice & stalactites in her chest,
its chicks of spikes, it’s numb stone.

the boy who loved her          is dead.
denied the rituals of ripening, she spits
feathers of futility from her tongue.

watch her:          she’ll never grow up
or fly. she’ll always be stifling screams,
believing there’s nothing too big

she can’t hide from—          no nest
or thunder. and if it comes too close,
no comfort that can’t be outrun.


About the writer:
Kerry Rawlinson left Zambia decades ago, exploring, landing in Canada. Fast forward: she’s barefoot again, creating stuff. Awards: GlitteryLiterary Flash April 2021; Edinburgh International Flash 2020. Recent: EpochPress; Event; Prairie Fire; Sarasvati; UnlostJournal; Cagibi; Carousel; amongst others. When not challenging concepts/formats, she drinks too much (tea).

Image: An Allegory of Domestic Disputes by The Master of the Fertility of the Egg (1650?-1725?). Oil on canvas. 94.5 x 145 cm. 17th century. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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