How the blade was not sharp enough.How a duck’s neck is supple as a thick piece of rope.How we squatted close to the damp dirt, nighttimewelling around our ankles. The old mendrunk by the gate had gone to their slanting houses;no one was on the streets. We had a knife at least,the kind you plunge into soil for cutting roots, bladesharpened on both sides, but old, really. How I held herwings bound against her struggle, my fingertips touchingon her breastbone. I had killed other animalsbefore, and once a broken-winged songbirddied of fright in my hands, but it is easyto forget how something goes bonelessfrom fear. How the smell of shit rose from her warm bodyafter. Together we carried her in a burlap sackthrough the dark streets, and blood bloomedon the fabric between us and on the street.She was a talisman through clusters of men,only boys but larger, conducting transactionsnot quietly, and no one spoke to us or met our eyes.How, even once we plucked her clean and, safe,someone set a pot to boil, traces of her smellclung to our hands like strands of fog. How my pulse ran in my fingerslike the heartbeat of another thing. [End Page 124]
Miriam Bird Greenberg has held fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Poetry Foundation, and the nea. “Killing” appears in the chapbook All night in the new country, published by Sixteen Rivers Press. She writes and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.