CW: sexual assault
There was, set in the desert, a long table
laden with innumerable fruit,
over-ripened from heat and wasting,
bruised and near fermented.
The man at the head of the table
hooked a dampened cherry in his tiny hand,
pursed his lips as if to kiss, sucking meat
from pit, and spit—
back onto the table next to a glass of Diet Coke.
Every seat facing the long wooden slab was filled with birds,
every bird trilled in shuddering accordance.
He grandstands, to the menagerie, his gluttonous gaping grin.
Any bird song even slightly out of key
would be cooked on a bonfire of newspaper clippings.
A new bird set to roost in the vacant seat,
a new nest built upon the refuse of the old
a new cacophony of assent for the man at the head of the table.
In the desert, it is always dark.
A low rumble under sand glitters beneath their feast—
hardened tears captured from the wailing of women.
Women whose vociferation became wind.
He squints only to the dish,
not the hands placing it there,
not the desert spinning ‘round him.
Every time he expands his jaws
a ventriloquist tosses refuse in and the
Puppet Master makes one nightmare after another, reality.
The old man’s mouth slackens,
he is still so hungry.
The female birds step lightly amongst rotten fruit
chew the insects that have landed on browned flesh.
Regurgitate into his softened maw,
he tilts back his head to swallow,
from blood and water and excrement
from dark night and heavy boom
nobody heard anything
they see us as shadows
peter pan us with a thread to their feet
they startle when the sun grows us
we are on the buildings and towering
a boy chased his shadow trying to catch it
was chased by his shadow tried to get away
a mother winds sinew through birchbark
creates a frame settles it around a mirror
she says if a spirit sees his face he will turn away
i wonder if they see their faces reflected in our own
In the darkness, an unlit match, your voice is empty breath. Hallow earth, plant seed / saliva slick & yearned lean back into swamp & grasp hands to willow she said, cut your own switch & she’ll whip your loose tongue & will words until you learn to keep those teeth clenched.
Mouthy waves, now, brown girl, they shake their paper skin. They’re begging to tell your story
as if they knew it better,
They’ll gloss over the black eye your sister gave you,
the star shaped sunglasses your aunt covered up the ache
they left behind.
In court, your other aunt will say, It Never Happened
as if she kept track of her brother’s every move
as if she, gacked out, could see into the backwards in time
him dressing you in his wife’s crotchless panties
him pushing your twelve-year-old knees apart,
pressing the baby fat of your thighs
His body has become the chorus, echoed on many bodies.
You’ve been reliving it & the people line up with wet eyes
as you unlock your jaw, fearing no willow, take a pen and write the first accusation—
he can kill you, you know.
The life of a honey bee is less than one hundred & sixty days,
it’s been longer that that, since you’d stung him.
Millissa Kingbird (Anishinaabe – Millie Lacs Band of Ojibwe) holds a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. She writes poetry and the occasional lyric essay focusing on womanhood, bodies, nature, and trauma. She has been published in Hinchas de Poesia, Yellow Medicine Review, Red Ink, Connotation Press, and The Rumpus. When not writing poetry, she sells seashells by the lakeshore—aka works in a pawn shop in Minnesota on beautiful Mille Lacs Lake.