Audubon’s Priority Bird List
1. Wood Stork
One night I met a boy who said he was a carpenter.
I offered him my body. He offered to carve it.
Under his hand I learned to be supple,
to make my whole body a muscle.
2. Snail Kite
When the boy could no longer speak he dug into the earth.
We were young, our bones just plucked from their birthplaces.
Together we overturned the water basin and found the blackness
beneath it. Invertebrates fell from its stone underskin in waves.
He dug ever deeper. I knelt on the grass, looked through him.
The worms and slugs writhed beneath his fingers. One snail
lay among the masses, blooming like a wound from the soil.
3. Little Blue Heron
Once I read that blue is the devil’s color, I decided to wear it always.
I became a being of wetness, moved like a cool sheet of water. I wore blue
to a party that wasn’t a party but really a get-together with an older girl
and her even older boyfriend. He was a fox and ate fire for a living,
swallowed the burning as easy as water. I asked him to teach me to eat
flames. He showed me the redness of his shoulders so I named him.
Red is not the devil’s color. This idolatry was short-lived—
the girl took God to her bedroom and left me with the cat.
It picked the blueness out of my eyes.
4. Roseate Spoonbill
Give me a rose and I will turn it into a mouth.
Give me my mouth and I will cease to speak.
I will fill my mouth with stones like the Patron Saint
of Earthen Silence, who does not exist. In French,
rose is the word for pink and rouge is the word
for red. At that party we threw roses on the floor,
from the balcony. That was the end of the night.
We stoppered our rose mouths and went home.
-after Peter LaBerge
My childhood was microscopic. September:
the boy grabbed my hand,
put it on the gearshift and slid up and down.
It felt limb-like. I asked why six settings
and he said six was the first perfect number.
We went a hundred miles per hour on the interstate
and I was struck by the fact that my body
had never moved that fast before, all my particles
accelerating towards an autumn no one anticipated.
All we’ve done are little things—
he pressed my thigh like it was a stone,
like he expected it to make a sound.
We made love in his queen bed and the whole time
I tried to remember the Japanese word
for a man seen only from behind.
Afterwards, he lit a cigarette and told me
about the time California was washed in snow.
I could not see his face.
On the way home, he let me use the radio.
I know what we both considered:
neither of us knew how to say
we had never tasted the inside of someone
before this. When we reached my house
I gave him a five for gas and tried to decide
if he lived in an apartment or a hotel room.
Ghazal for Manhood
I am throwing a party to celebrate the existence
of coffee, sex, grassfire, the sea, bones, man.
On the path to the river I did not fall into
I made a house from shoreline rocks for a man.
Once, my grandfather and I ripped the skin
off dead animals, fresh-shot. I am not a man.
This bone. This blood. This dragon eyebrow.
All of this was half-given to me by a man.
We entered through the stage door in the middle of the performance.
Our faces reddened like blood moons, even the man’s.
Enkidu made love for seven days and seven nights—
exiting the woman, split from beasts, he became a man.
Sometimes an apple is enough to fill me. The orchard ripens
as it always has. I ripen in the presence of a man.
The boy says my name like it will break open in his mouth.
I have tasted, been tasted. All this to become a man.
Matthew Shepard, 1998
A boy walks into a room.
Two boys appear. They pretend
to kiss. The original boy
opens his mouth, making
a wet red O of it. All the boys
get into a car, drive away
from the room. No one
speaks, no one gives
their name, something
plays on the radio. The first boy
places his hand on another boy’s knee,
holds it as if it is about
to break. The car speeds up,
pulls over, stops. The first boy
is tied to a fence. The other boys
beat him. He is nothing more
than his body, his blood.
The boys leave. Eighteen
hours pass. A cyclist discovers
the bloodied boy, mistaking his body
for a scarecrow. A woman
arrives. She tries to trick his body
into thinking it is not dead.
Her gloves are faulty.
To make an airway,
she puts her fingers in
and out of his mouth
till they are slick, her flesh reddened.
She calls an ambulance. She sees
fragments of his skull, thinks
what did he do to deserve this?
His mouth, more wet and red
and open than before. His face:
a blood moon, small and beating.