Maia Carlson



1. Gaunt mother,
ruler of an angry child,
make me a Hoatzin bird
that though I may be clawed
—hand and foot—in my youth
I’ll grow more downy
and feathered
and crowned with age.

2. Shadowless mother,
space between a tiger’s stripes,
make me a golden cage
that I may hold all of my
guilt inside gilt
—like a heart inside ribs—
until even the fissures are holy.

3. Bitter mother,
goddess of blood and unhewn things,
mold me into a bezoar,
abandon the ugly into the palm
of your hand until there’s but
a crushed godstone of me left behind.
Forgive me for the poisons
I cannot cleanse
from your cup.

4. Whiskey mother,
ruler from a lowly place,
let me be your daughter-hound,
a beast that bites and
burns and can only be tamed
with fire, burning off the alcohol of me.

5. Breathless mother,
weight of three rivers,
make me barracuda dangerous,
a bird of prey beneath whatever water
drowns me. Lend me the strength
of five oceans and
the brutal blue.

6. Ugly mother,
make me a vanda orchid
with my face all purple and
my veins splayed. I’ll forbear
the dirt of the earth
for you, for the naked air. 

7. War mother,
maker and breaker within one body,
make me a bagpipe’s scream
so that I won’t be welcome
in any holy place but yours.
I’ll howl across all the wide
open places until even the bones

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