Brynn Downing previously served as the 34th Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School for Boys in Washington, DC. A former bar tender, au pair, barista, and copy writer, she now teaches literature at a boarding school in California's Central Coast region. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA in Global Studies, focusing on Masculinity and Nationalism in Former-Yugoslavia, from the College of William and Mary. She conducts interviews with Four Way Review. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from The James Franco Review, Specter Literary Journal, and Prairie Schooner.
too bird for girl perching on the sill on cots on stairs
beak for smelling ground teeth gum feed grass
bugs i catch better than a spider
too bird for mother boys who shoved me onto my back broke nails on stone walls
bones too soft to stay unbroken
too heavy to fly not enough bird need feathers to wrap my hands and arms boss has them sew my arms a feathered dress
what about the naked pigeons i ask what about their eggs how will they keep their eggs warm
hush says boss
in mirrors over puddles i shake my feathers spin for wind flapping
chickens lay eggs and i palm them curl my talons around their babies
i whisper to the tiny hearts that i am soft we practice flying when i crack their necks for dinner i weep will they forgive me will they forgive me will they forgive me
i must eat
i pretend they are other meat
This poem is from a longer cycle following an imagined carnival touring the United States at the end of the 19th century. While several of these poems began in response to the collection of "medical oddities" at Philadelphia's Mutter Museum, much of my work combs history and pop culture to questions issues of feminism, representation and the body. Keeping in mind Virginia Woolf's quote that, "for much of history, Anonymous was a woman", stories from history and pop culture provide lenses for me to view not only the culture that has shaped me but to examine my own history and experiences.