Covert Feathers

In some ways we’ve moved to the desert, in others

we’ve been sentenced. The thorn of me

when his kisses bloom. The barkflesh


of palo breas a wrung green, supplicants

who mimed for water so pathetically

they moved themselves, forgot their thirst


and became intent on gesture. I’ve never known

what to do with my hands. But I can make space

inside myself, a succulent, and drink slowly. I can wait


until I duplicate. I’m a cactus in reverse. It hurts.

It doesn’t hurt. It’s time to click bottle tree

castanets with the children. A muster


of peafowl roost on the library roof. Our eyes dart from drab

to glam, hen to cock. They descend

from a pair brought from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair


to gussy up the hardpan. What penetrates, what softens

these calcic horizons, though, is nothing. When I imagine

a future here, it pools on the surface, silty tonic


I fuse my lips against. My eyes plunge in the peacock’s crest, attempt

to decipher the blue. It’s not pigment, but structural, a matter of light

interference and angle. I feel myself scattered this way,


and when a woman emerges from the library’s double

doors with her brood, I’m immersed in the story of her

miscarriage, she’s pregnant, pulling a wagon full of speakers


and amps through a rare rain, the field empty now, and she

scouring the Bermuda grass for her lost keys. . . it seems natural for her to blurt

this pain to a stranger. I can’t fully attend, nor can she,


the peacocks being larger than some of our children, our children

angling to pluck such color, and that’s what makes the sharing

easy, like two swimmers’ limbs grazing under water. I forget


this reserve of sweetness in me, past all the barely soothed

seething, clutch of versions I can’t un-nest, harem changing

in the makeshift fitting room at the center of spread


fan-tails. Like any mother grows eyes

in the back of her head, hears danger tucked

in the quiet, knows whole people can burst through.



Allison Barrett has poems published in Fourteen Hills Review and cream city review as well as poems forthcoming in The National Poetry Review. She received her MFA from Cornell University and has since then been (slowly) writing poems in between raising three small children and working full-time.