After a Stroke, My Mother Speaks to a Stuffed Pheasant in Her Son-in-Law’s Living Room
by Tom Daley
Pheasant, I promised my sons
I will only leave them
to climb the hill to the long sleep
if you dare to fan your wings
in this room. Tell them my feet are
stirring in my black boots.
Tell them that my fists
have rubbed my eyes weary
This room is cold, Pheasant.
Why do you roost here,
ruddy and betrayed?
In your indifferent pose,
your wing feathers are soft as Irish setter hair,
your neck green as a pigeon’s.
Your glass eye is weak.
You cannot take it out.
Do not let it cloud.
My dugs have failed, Pheasant.
They were nuzzle and buoy
and braver than cartilage.
Feather my breasts with your prayers, Pheasant,
for they have been hurt.
You have been hurt, too, Pheasant.
You were shot to please
a woman, and preserved.
Pheasant, it is wintry in my heart.
This winter starves me. The hill roads
near this house are crowned
with impassable ice.
Give me back my girl’s ministrations.
Yes, her husband’s backbone is maimed,
but let her attend to my squalor,
my blatant and durable envy.
If her man is courteous,
his pockets are bulging with buckshot.
His hands are forever tying tiny lures.
His hunt fills my girl’s need.
He fishes her and fills her.
Pheasant, where will you fly to?
If I walk in your wake, will your turbulence warm me?
Even the fires in this house are futile.
Their smoke makes my sons cough.
Late at night I hear their gasping.
Pheasant, your cordovan coat
is splotched by their hacking.
They unlace my boots
and lie on the floor beside my bed
so that I will not follow you
and clamber to sleep
when you summon your wings.