I am reborn as an animal
that breaks into dental clinics
long after sundown to suck laughing gas
from its dark mask.
               I am reborn
as an animal that keeps watch
on the liquor store until the lights
flick off, or later.
               The animal that sings
its ballads to the cattails,
which is the same animal whose hands close
over the shape of baby birds
in low nests.
               This is an animal
that carries a gold-rimmed teacup
and kisses the ravenous night
with all its teeth before sinking
them into the leg
of its benefactor.
               Among the cemetery
with its lonesome chill, the animal
made of shadow has touched
the breast of a woman who laid down
with the dead.
               This animal
picks names from the phonebook
and sleeps very lightly
beneath their window or wakes late
for a cigarette, and its smoke drifts
into their dreams.
               Once there was
an animal just like this who was left,
newly born, in a box on the steps of a temple
in an old country, and the priest
blessed it in a bath of milk
and made it jump
through the fire.
               The animal
came to glitter like pyrite.
The animal shivered
like gold flecking the stones
of a chilly river.
               The animal
was caused by a minor devil
to stumble, and for that it was cast off
like the disheveled skin
of a spirit.
               In slumber, the animal
set out for its fortune, and in slumber
came to a farm where animals
were slaughtered. Needing
food, he asked for a job.
               To pull
a blade through the feathers
of an animal, to pour out
its blood as if from the mouth
of a bottle and blanch it,
and put handfuls of its feathers into a bag
coarsely like paper money
of no remaining value, then cut open
its small chest where the organs
glisten like jewels in their shawl
of blood.
               The animal may go on
doing this forever. It may have to.
               The animal is accustomed
to count discreetly, to curry
small favor, to stop for its bottle
hidden in an abandoned bunker
somewhere, and to drink it there, in peace,
if it can.
               The animal’s soul
is contained in a separate vessel.


Miriam Bird Greenberg's poems are forthcoming in The Other World, winner of the Center for Book Arts’s limited- edition letterpress chapbook prize. She is the author of In the Volcano's Mouth.

You Might Also Enjoy

Bailout Haiku

Alicia Ostriker

The banks were betting
on derivatives and when
everything collapsed our taxes paid to
bail them out without any. . .


The Correct Approach

Regina Derieva

Eloquently they spoke, those ancients— briefly, and with a shine. Their thoughts had little wings attached to them, like Hermes’.


Not Blind

Taghrid Abdelal

No it isn’t. But love took one of my eyes for itself, love had vision before birth, did discuss with me the accuracy of what. . .


Further Reading

Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.