Ortolan, Drowning


content note: implications of assault

I don’t know what he wanted me to do.
The room was dark. His girlfriend was

outside but the windows were shuttered.
I wanted him to stop. To push me back

and watch my baby fat swell in the moonlight
and see the shiny black eyes I opened for

him. My neck askew and the cupboards
creaking. Something low and feathery

would rise from his throat as
if he had choked on a bird and that bird

was named after me. He would sputter
and look at me. He would choke and

the bird would sing. He could make my body
a complete sentence: No. I could leave my tongue in

his roots and not answer. We are never at the same pitch;
never with a napkin wiping the faith from our faces.

When he doesn’t move, doesn’t sing, I feel as if he’s not there.
He’s an ocean and this house is a graveyard for the great flood.

He’s an ocean and his tears are still saltwater.
I held my breath and count out how many breaths

I could take till the ocean dries and the bird returns.
My face went red after five. I opened my eyes.

His hands were on my shoulders and his smile
was a pile of bones and he almost made

the moment a memory. But the room was dark.
And a bird coos at the water before it drowns.

Jude Armstrong