I make the bed as my mother taught me,
smoothing sheets corner to corner, curve to curve,
crisp and white, smelling of bleach
and the flowery sachets
she stuffs into linen closets and cedar chests,
as if she could trick those
cramped and lightless spaces to bloom.
I fluff the pillows, three sharp blows,
the feathers expanding inside
as if they might take wing and escape
if only I hit them hard enough.
In my belly, my sparrow stirs,
a familiar flutter beneath my heart.
I smooth my hand over my navel
as my mother taught me,
to hide the jabs of beak and bone,
the stirring of clawed feet,
kicking for purchase as if my flesh
was summer soil, ripe and fertile.
I fold my hand over my belly
as my mother once did
when I too was a tangle of
wet feathers and ancient urges,
as if I, too, could trick nature
into believing there is
life beating its way
out of me.
(Editors’ Note: “As if My Flesh was Summer Soil” is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 36B.)
© 2020 Lora Gray