Isabelle Shepherd



after Richard Siken

Eventually birds must land, but
birds and his hands keep flying.

What else is there to do? His hands
turn into reflections, lost light.

Wind blows to make a truth, to say,
There's no pure nothing. But what

of the silenced air? What of thin clouds
he raises with a thread? That's what

violins are for. And yes, a moon thrown
from the edge— for effect. Cue strings.

Cue want. Cue everyone wanting—                       
someone, a hand, and the hand wanting

to do something to the landscape,
like the voice wants to forecast weather.

This entry into winter: his mouth
with too much teeth, sharpened

between breath. The way frost is made
to feel fully, and there is nothing

descending. I've loved like water,
frozen beneath the bridge. That's all

I wanted. To be a season, to be
the one snow passes through. 

I never asked for flight, for burning,
and so what if his feathers fall

onto the windowsill, if his hands
flutter under the stitched quilt?

This is a body caught between
prayer and mercy. This is a body,

but it doesn't matter. This, a little
cold bed, but it doesn't matter.

Clean sheets, a little glass of water—
it should matter. His hands, folding,

keep turning into birds, into wings
falling heavy. Read it like a prayer—

it shouldn't matter. It sounds like
mercy, but doesn't matter.





This poem began by flipping “Unfinished Duet” by Richard Siken. Because Siken is good flipped, also diagonal, also blended with lemon and kale juice and a little ginger.