I Eat My Words

Yes, it’s cruel. An unseemly gluttony.  

Trapping the ortolan buntings, forcing 

them to gorge in the dark, mouthfeel of seeds  

their only comfort in that closed, blank space. 

 

Drowned in amber brandy, plucked then roasted, 

their tiny bones crunch softly in the mouth. 

The smallish wings tuck along smooth, browned skin, 

like stiff Olympic lugers eaten whole. 

 

A white cloth napkin drapes over the head 

to hide the diner’s shame from the sight of  

God. If that were true, I’d buy them in bulk,  

wash, dry, and press them, carry folded stacks   

 

everywhere I went, place them as needed. 

Once, I carried my girl child inside me 

like a burden, her cabbage head pressing 

on my softened cervix, an aching pain  

 

so agonizing I wanted her out  

at all costs. My brother said there is no 

home safer for her than your body. I  

want this to be untrue. My sweet girl, just 

 

now a woman, is hustling tips from old,  

rheumy-eyed men who tell her smile real  

pretty for me. She is home, giving me  

her day, and I am handing out advice  

 

like I have all the answers. When she’s had 

enough, she stomps up to her room, cocoons 

herself in piled clothes and empty dishes. 

Later, in the kitchen, I see she has 

 

eaten what I left her: a simple green  

salad, grilled chicken thigh lightly seasoned.  

Instead, I should have said I’m sorry, should 

have said there’s no mistake I haven’t made.