Exiled from the family of man

he sees something maybe it’s a painting maybe
it’s a poem or a bird or just a dream maybe it’s the
thing that will one day come out of the clouds to kill
him he sees it clearly at first and then as if through
stained glass and then as if from the passenger side
of a moving car the bird considers him considering
it the bird sees into his soul (or what’s left of his
soul) the bird is gray and black and white and
orange and red and yellow the bird wears a tuft of
mismatched feathers above its head like a tiara
or a diadem indicating that it is sovereign or divine
the bird cocks its head then shits down a wall now
he has seen the thing that has given his life meaning
and also rendered it meaningless: a work of art so
calamitous to the outcroppings of his soul that he
dreams about writing a poem called exiled from or
flung from or detached from or otherwise lacerated
like an appendage from the family of man watching
the bird shit down a wall is like wandering through
a forest of bone-white birch or ash trees and coming
across nude bathers who are not naked or don’t
consider themselves so because of the simple fact
that they have never once heard the word clothes or
naked or good or evil or chaos or bird but the bird
takes or guides him into the center of himself like a
god who knows the exact place in the body where
the holy act of crying originates the bird shows him
the great halls of future palaces—a refuge for him
now as he contemplates the one true fork in the road
he listens to the bird tell him his fortune and sees
within a painfully ornate frame his whole life but
distilled into a single image—a painting that is black
or dark blue in its realistic (almost Flemish) depiction
of a woman washing bird shit off a wall and then he
closes his eyes and sees his grandfather stripped to the
waist and skinning a goat or a deer he stops to think
how the flesh of a goat or a deer is as blue as it is pink or
white he thinks it’s as blue as the color of his true love’s
hair and his grandfather smiles that inimitable smile
of a nymph or a ghost folds his knife in order to place
it in his back pocket for a later use and says: remember
to write an elegy for everything you kill but never eat

 

 

 

 

Bryan D. Price is the author of A Plea for Secular Gods: Elegies (What Books, 2023) His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Letters, Mississippi Review, The Glacier, Boulevard, and elsewhere. He lives in San Diego, California.