Call Me a Courage
I want to name all the birds. to identify kingdom and phylum and order and family
and genus—I forget, sometimes, that we name everything that bleeds.
I want to categorize their clumsy syllables. know them by their candy-
colored wings. the soft nakedness of their feet. I want to call out to them—
each one, by its name, as though I had known it all along. in the museum diorama,
their bodies are mid-flight. perched. diving into glass. oh, those four-chambered hearts.
the hollow bones of flightless deaths. funny how we strive to name groups of anything.
a prowl of jaguars. a streak of tigers. how we name companionship as though
it is something surprising to want. to need. a brash of deer lingers in the dew-wet
lawn of my childhood home. chewing clover. blinking into the dense fog. I wonder:
what would we name a group of me? twenty versions of my body shift in a field.
my skin collects wetness at dawn. I’m skittish, maybe. I look for shelter. a dissimulation
of birds watches from the tree line. an exaltation of larks bursts from an oak in a splash
of darkness. somehow, everyone looks beautiful in white. like doves—feathered
romantic things. on my side of the glass, the creatures I see are always more frightening.
let’s name us a murder. a musket. a loneliness.
Sara Ryan is the author of the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). She was the winner of the 2018 Grist Pro Forma Contest and the CutBank Big Sky Small Prose Flash Contest. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, DIAGRAM, Booth, Prairie Schooner, Hunger Mountain and others. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Texas Tech University.