It was one of those city nights. Crazy-ass bitching and breaking of whiskey
bottles shattered your intent. You ransacked my coin purse and slammed out for
smokes while I waited for swelling to quell, a bag of frozen peas on my jaw.
At dawn you crept in, knelt at our bed, claiming you had spent that lost
time, roadside, mourning your crime. Presenting the victim — a pigeon, freshly
plucked from the grill of our Plymouth — you explained it was a Hit and Stick.
You’d resuscitated it with your pinky, held up your left hand, I swear.
What pinky, baby? You’d sacrificed that one on our wedding night trying
to cut steel bars from our bedroom window with a skill saw. It was almost
romantic. It was almost 2 am and a twelve-pack down. From under the covers, I’d
heard the buz-zing when it cut to bone. After that, my dreams filled with siren
songs, each ambulance carting pieces of you back to detox. Still, I slept peaceful
enough. My grandfather learned to doze in a foxhole, shrapnel whizzing round
his dirt den.
I bathed the bird in our kitchen sink. Gave it a mirror to keep it company. There
was something I recognized in its damp eyes, like beads of a barren woman’s
rosary. The shellac of hope. Death. You didn’t drink for a week, called it our
broken-hearted lark, fed it the wrong things: bits of Wonder Bread and salted
bacon, sips of distilled water from a jelly-jar, tainted with gin.
I visited my grandmother. She knew about birds but only sat up and
raged at her husband, two decades dead. What does he think? she’d asked the
stranger that was me. Some Starling will plant that garden
by shitting in the wind?
Hate came easy now. She’d forgotten about love. I wondered if this made things
High on Mass and due for a miracle – your mother claimed it was Gabriel, but
cringed when she saw it, caged in shoebox and straw. She quietly repossessed the
bequest bassinet. We had taken too long; your sister was big with twins. And so
on. She hissed, or whispered, These things take time.
My sister called, Why don’t you just slit your fucking wrists?
But I opted to shoot Gabriel down with the pill of birth control blue, and went to
confession where the priest claimed he’d known you since you were a boy.
Patience. I said I had too, and it’s true, you had been a very good little boy.
Finally, on the day of clarity, atop the apartment roof, you wept for what
we could not do. I wept for the intersection of freedom where panic bleeds to
culpable relief. We set the bird aloft, tossed it to the sky.
Wind blew our pities to the
heavens and our lark ascend on them with holy conviction — then arced
beautifully away — only to hone back into our closed bedroom window,
bewildered that its lover was so familiar.
* * *
You can read Dani Sandal in the Raleigh Review, Adirondack Review, New Orleans Review, Puerto del Sol, Monkeybicycle, Camroc Press, Mad Hatter’s Review, PANK, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Deep South Magazine, and Stirring:Sundress Publications. She’s also honored to be included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 shorts for 2013. Dani holds an MFA from George Mason University, and has the continuous pleasure of raising the coolest kid ever, Holden.