I Am Fearful of Birds
after Kathleen McGookey
Russell Brakefield

 We, in terms unclear and new, whisper our fears as we know them now. I am fearful of birds", she says "and fearful of what the psychic reader told me when I saw her in town." Amid the changing light of morning she cranes her neck in a fashion so redundantly coursing, and I wonder if upon hearing her fortune she wasn't waiting in that old pizza place, the one with angels inhabiting the corner's of the parlor, the large breasted woman staring over her clientele with all knowing eyes. "I am studying your body for when you leave," she says, so delicately that it seems the words may rip on her mouth as quickly as she speaks them, "and I think by now I have memorized your fingertips and the corners of your mouth." In the valley of her shoulders I stir, untangle, our closeness. We are not often clear with our movements. "Learn me," she says, "learn me now by the way I bend together my naked feet, bundle my elbows." But with her absence I will have nothing save a picture of her naked back. So I stencil lines of verse across her shoulder blades and take time to know the measures of her torso.
It turns out I often loose something very important in searching for something of little significance. And I have a reoccurring dream, sleeping in her presence, that my left shoe is much too tight. Upon awakening I hope that it is too full of loose change. Untying my tattered laces and dumping the contents onto the floor, my heel is soft and empty. "I am fearful of birds," she says again, about the time she knows that I must leave. "Yes," I nod, "but I need your posture to align with the exhale of the sparrow between songs. I need your naked form to align with the hollow recesses of my open palms."
"Just learn me," she says, turning open my hand and placing in it a small silver coin.