I Made Things
It pleased that I was clever with my fingers—
drawings, elaborated eggshells, dolls, an evening gown for my mother—
so when I asked to have the feathers from a pheasant he’d hunted
he said he’d have them plucked for me to sort and use.
I don’t know how to write about God except to count and sort the ways
I both believe and fail belief. As if I claimed to swim and couldn’t,
but knew the salts would buoy me up
long enough to learn
Our car had hit a pheasant once. My father got out calmly, twisted its head
and body in different directions and explained the nature of kindness to me.
His hands were beautiful and skilled.
I’d thought I was the only thing he’d hurt.
I’d thought I’d get the feathers in a bag—an airy mass of flight and color.
Instead, the man who dressed his birds sent the whole skin
for me to pluck. I sorted every kind of feather into small bags.
The skin was supple in my hands.
My father knew I loathed his hunting. I liked that he knew.
I had things to make that wanted feathers.
He said he’d told the man to pluck the bird.
I don’t recall it stank. He thought I’d chicken out.
One pheasant, if you take care, gives up feathers enough
for fifty years of making small things to give away.
I don’t know how to speak of flight, except to count and sort the ways
I both loved and tore the bird.