THE STATE BIRD OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE by Matthew Tuckner
The front yard is littered with American robins
who don’t know they are American robins.
Years ago, I knew the word for this kind of freedom.
Death was just a concept. I was more gullible than an ear.
Now, it appears I’ve dropped the keys to all of it
in the drainage ditch, that the pipe in the painting
is not, in fact, a pipe in the mind, that the worm
a robin shuttles across the lawn is just a few scraps
of rubber hose the bird’s brain
cobbled together into a meal.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this name
stored in the basement below my name, perhaps a morsel
from a past life as a goat, or a blade of grass, the initials
scratched into a tree so overgrown with canker
no amount of pruning the rotten bark
would divulge its syllables.
For B., it was Dr. Gunther. A name he learned
to forge after paying a friend to drop a cinder block
on his left hand, an injury planned to grant
the body a pain that only percocet could stifle.
Even hampered by a cast, he copied the words
on the stolen prescription pad so often
they became a kind of shirt he couldn’t take off,
wake up Dr. G, as he slumped against the wall of lockers,
I think you’re on fire Dr. G, as someone shook up
a bottle of mountain dew & sprayed him down.
In time, it became the shirt they buried him in,
& by that point it was hard to remember
what the letter B. actually stood for.
It was hard to remember the day he carved a door
in his name & flew straight through it.
- Published in Issue 23