Brandon Thurman is a behavior analyst and poet living in Fayetteville, Arkansas with his husband and son. His poetry can be found in PANK and is forthcoming in Zone 3.

Also by Brandon Thurman: Charismata

Brandon Thurman

The Language of Birds

"There was an early superstition that if the bird's tongue were split at the tip with a silver sixpence ground to a knife edge, then it would talk better." — The British Library Boy slinks in bare feet & dirty XXL t-shirt down boat ramp greased with green slime, steadying on his father's ghost of elbow. Cold water gropes up past calves & knees, swallows his briefs with a gasp. Boy's legs haloed in minnows suckling at the soft fuzz of his thighs. Boy's father slaps palm to chest. Boy pinches nose shut, takes slug of hot air, & is pushed under. Boy holds his eyes open against the veins of shifting silt & backlit fish-shit, watches as clots of clean breath rise & rupture on the surface, pure particles of boy swimming away into sky. Boy waits for the heavy-breath sinner in his chest to flatline, prays for a swift, surgical slice of holy light. Boy wants to come out of another body of water, wants gash of sky, hemorrhaged with tenderness. Boy surfaces with no name to muted clouds, to dove with split tongue: to myth, old wives' tale, to senseless violence, a scissored muscle that still won't say a word.

Recently, what I've been interested in probing in my poetry is the way that brutality can lie alongside beauty in the things that are most important to us as humans — things like spirituality & sexuality & family. It seems that the holier the thing, the sharper its teeth are. This poem is part of a series of poems exploring, among other things, how religion can complicate our identities — whether that identity is a gay man, a gay man's mother, a child with a disability, or a teenager who has experienced trauma — while attempting to deconstruct the Christian religion's rituals & myths to excavate the beauty & brutality lying underneath.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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