Hatched from the wet egg of a sculptor’s eye
a quarter century ago, it grips
its squat stump, wings outstretched as if to dry.
Its bones are wires, its plumage ragged strips
of pages torn from my father’s books, drizzled
with inky paint, barnacled with gimcracks
(buttons and sequins, beads and hair), as if risen,
drenched, from lakes of metaphor and syntax.
Call it “Old Anhinga.” Or “Hideous Bird.”
And call it mine: a death-gift from my father.
I hid it with his ashes when I heard
his voice begin to seep from every feather:
slurring disjointed lines from his saddest poems,
squawking of bodies changed into new forms.
Geoffrey Brock (translation 107; poetry 111) has new poems out in the Yale Review, Copper Nickel, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas.
“Totem” originally appeared in TLR: Feverish