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My Birds

Ann Zhang

St. Louis, MO

John Burroughs School



There are two headless chickens in the kitchen

sink. I name one Judith and then I eat her.

Her feathers deaden my intestines: An apricot

           thumps. Bruises, like afterthought,

repurpose my throat. I am sorry for the remaining

chicken, the one left lounging friendless.

I ask my doctor if he can bring her back:

           No, but you can. So I hack

an inch off my left thumb, half of my eye, my tongue,

still wriggling, wattle-like. I drive five states to borrow

my mother’s womb and discover her breastfeeding

           the neighbors’ gargoyle, repeating

a story about mandarin ducks that I don’t remember,

yet I remember this, lightseconds ago: A wet gosling

tumbling down the sewer. His brothers turned back

           once, twice. I unlearned him,

remember? How I knelt in the sludge and kissed

each oily feather and came home phossy-jawed,

regretting my thirst.


I loved this poem. It's fractured, a fugue-like fever dream, a fairytale cut into pieces. The author's images are distinctly surreal yet unnervingly connected, and perhaps that's what makes them so memorable. The poem stayed with me like a nightmare -- the kind where you wake up with dreams sticking to the roof of your dry mouth.


Ann Zhang is a senior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn't writing poetry, prose, or plays, you can find her playing water polo, watching Jane the Virgin, or enjoying a mango popsicle.

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