Poetry » Sarah Carleton »

Alchemy

She loved palmetto bugs,
medjool dates with legs that wiggled,
a treat gobbled between cracked corn
and milo.

She overturned plastic cups
in search of snacks we captured
just for her. Split-second beak darting,
roaches disappeared with a jerk.

Then with plowshares alchemy
her body turned crawling things
into brown eggs for our breakfast;

grains and grasses, too, remixed
inside the same hot belly
that pressed into the palm of my hand
when I held her to calm
her cackled complaints,

stroking the jewel-black
feathers of her neck
just to feel the squawk subside to a gurgle.

We eat neither fowl nor hemiptera
but some omnivore made a meal
of our darling, ravaged her plump gleam
to a grimy dishrag,

dug a moon out of her middle
so that she hung in concave
segments from my husband’s hands

with her premature egg left in the grass
a few paces away
translucent and white as an angel.

Pluck one

she said, and ten more show up for the funeral.
Sure enough, ten shiny imps sprout off the whorl,
ten hide behind my ear,
another ten crouch in my side-part.

In kinked clumps, they hold wild wakes
and shimmer for each other.
My fingertips pinch at the glint,
but even while plucking
I can’t help admiring their lives–
so brazen, so loyal,
so beautifully mourned.

Who are these celebrated strands,
whose banishment
will draw enough brilliant friends
to burnish my head with silver?