Rebecca Alexander


as if you could conjure the whole bird
from this tiny feather
glint of electric blue sailing on the current
of a rain-driven gust and passing
through the high window’s iron bars

confined as you are
a feather’s purpose expands in the mind
where flight is not possible
it is a pen for ink of gathered rust
it is a needle that draws blood
to dye thread salvaged from the hem
of your last remaining garment
the same needle to stitch the thread
back into the weave
as script that spells the names
of the receding voices going silent
as the days advance

you can’t see more than a sliver of night sky
but it belongs no less to you
than to the President in his shell-proof palace bed
baby-faced in sleep beneath the plush of blankets
though his molars grind like tumbling boulders
or falling buildings
and his dreams are thick with dust and overrun
with grey-faced children weak as nestling birds
but powerful as ghosts
throughout the waking day he swats the air around his head
at a nimbus of unseen flies that should not be mistaken
for the shadow of a conscience

the guards detect the shape of an ancient bird
in the dark and roiling clouds above the prison
—a messenger and witness of several worlds
destroyed, revived, destroyed again—
they take no prisoners as they abandon their posts
and then a feather is an awl
that picks the locks of every cell
it is as good as wings