How is my desire lost?
It pours out of my body.
How is my desire filled?
It pours out of your body.
—They had nearly asked each other this,
asked where love had gone, squinting
as you do without your glasses,
and looking for your glasses—
instead, they sat staring out the window.
It was late May, and petals drifted
from the apple-trees in loose spirals,
last pageant of the season—
Two sparrows stood outside,
full grown, or so it seemed:
one bird dipped down its head, bowing
and twitching the golden jaws—
was it in submission? Picking a fight?
Its wings flickered, spread in a sliced
geisha-fan shape. The other bird looked
non-plussed, if that’s the word;
it jerked its all-grasping eyes. Indifferent….
And now the couple grasps the pantomime:
the ducking and shuffling sparrow
is the fledged, still-dependent chick
haggling its mama or papa, still demanding
the food it could find for itself
(so the couple thinks) until the parent,
as if disgusted with the performance,
retches and empties its stomach
down the big baby’s throat: an ecstasy
of living juice expelled from the self.
She says, I thought they were courting.
And he, stupidly, There’s no sex here,
it’s only endless parenting—
With that, a chill air settles between them,
love flowing from the starved bodies,
the birds flown away….
In the old picture-book of beasts, the pelican
pecks its breast bloody to feed its young—
Maybe the artist was just mocking Freud
and the little poetries that ask forgiveness.
David Gewanter’s latest book of poetry is Fort Necessity (Chicago, 2018). He teaches at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Opening picture: Medieval image of pelicans feeding themselves to their young.
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