There are always birds

trying to come inside. I came inside. The door was half-
open, the living room floor dressed in a flurry of feathers. A bird
had burst in, sure that a room must be like any other place––
but then my house with its beast’s jaw. Its hunger. Its practiced
growl and whir. The bird swelled
with fear and shit everywhere, I mean
everywhere, carpets a splattered dictionary of panic.
I found it huddled with the dishtowels, shivering.
Later I asked, why the dishtowels. My mother said
they must have been the right kind of soft. Like a nest, or grass––
grass, the softest thing we all share. And the bird a heartbeat
threatening the sky. We cradled it to our chests in turns,
watched it flutter frantic and dissolve in the street’s chant
of rooftops. Before this, another bird, brown, broken-necked,
limp at the lip of the garage. My father gathered it
into a dustpan. I did not watch. And the first bird, a sound
gathered ruthless into a fist and rushing at the window
as though it were air, beat at the pane, once––
To fly must be to defeat the body. To live everywhere
and nowhere. John, I’ve been having this dream:
your room has grown into a house, complete with cement
scars and a screen door. Outside, the punched
plums stinking, the finches snatching away
their secrets. The room is just as it was. Nothing there
but the slump of my body pinned beneath the dark
canopy of your grunting. One word and only my mouth
to forget it. My sternum a column of claws. John,
I was so small to you, which would explain
why I felt too heavy to move, too still to want or not want.
In the dream we’re on the porch, some bird bleeding
out in the grass: sparrow, kestrel. Does it matter?
A rack of bullets limps your right hand. The jets spit
into the lazy sky. The bird isn’t dead yet.
I invent a glint in its mouth’s gun-dark
every time I have the dream. Its body’s curdle
and twitch. Any sign. I never go closer
to the bird, never try. At least the afternoon’s cool
thrum. At least the grass, soft. Our house whirs
and you wrench me into it. You say, come in
now. Even after I wake I am thinking of the bird.
How I would have forgotten it if it were whole,
unbroken. Miraculous, how its heart flocked
fluent into the dirt. It bled
and bled. It bled because it could.
Tonight I am red for a world paled
of red. I walk around like a tooth
in a mouth that’s still laving over a bitten
tongue. My collarbones are proud
as knives. The dark is a dark which quarters
everyone like melons. I kiss up one strange soft
gift of skin, then another, quick,
my brain blackened with light, I kiss all the way
to the softest skin I can find, I try
to keep it. I cannot keep it. All the way and still
I cannot stop. I want and want. I’m shivering. A limp
pair of wings against hard glass. I can’t help it. I couldn’t
help it. I had to burst through the door,
empty myself anywhere I could. My body
had to come in from the crooked
sky. Had to stumble crooked through the house
to see if the house would whisper back, or twitch
to life. Any sign. Isn’t that how it goes, John?
Enter something and you become it. In the dream
you shot the bird because you could. Tonight,
I look down at your clenching hands, hung
suddenly from my crooked wrists. In my heart
is a screen door with me on one side,
every open beak I have ever known on the other.
They rush at me cawing, tongues thrumming
with blood, claiming freedom, calling join us, join us.

Shakthi Shrima's work has appeared in inter|rupture, DIALOGIST, Muzzle Magazine, BOAAT, and The Berkeley Poetry Review, amongst others. Shakthi Shrima has appeared in her unmade bed. She lives in Munich.