I was the one
hiding in the corner of class
when we were in third grade.
No one saw me because I covered my eyes.
I put a cupcake on your desk
every morning, but someone
would always take it before you came.
One day, I woke up late
and had to rush to school.
I couldn’t make it to the bakery in time,
so I asked the birds for help.
They gave me a cupcake
that was spongy moist,
but the frosting looked suspect, so I
took a taste.
It made me sick
and I spent a week in bed.
In my dreams,
I arrived early in the morning,
cupcake in hand,
only to find that it would melt
as I got close to your desk.
When I got better and went back to school,
I found out that you moved far away.
Years passed. I went to the birds
and asked them to find you,
to carry me there. They clutched me
with their claws and beaks.
They carried me so far I fell asleep.
When I woke, I was in a tree. The birds
pointed their beaks at your house,
and I could see you
getting in your black car
under the orange sky.
I tried jumping down, but the birds
snatched me up. I called
and you looked, but the birds
became a furious frenzy of feathers.
You screamed and hid your face.
You drove away.
until the birds fell asleep,
but they always caught me. They carved
names into my skin
to convince me I was one of them.
Names like Birdbrain
Now I sleep in trees
and have grown to like the taste of worms
tossed in the park.
But it’s you I think of most
when I go to the fountain
to take deep sips.
Each time before I drink,
I stare at the whirl,
my mouth mid-air,
and I hold my breath.
~ First published in the Brooklyn Review, No. 23