The elder, I always did what was expected: bent a path
through the world like long grass with my body paved
a way out of our father’s kingdom’s perimeter birthed

a male heir within the year inside the funereal torch-lit
bed, under the planetary gaze of an owl scoring a count
of talons of the days left into the fragrant headboard

and, more, I beseeched, I asked for what I needed, then
believed when he, face lowered, delivered the news
of her death at sea, the waves’ swallow of her body.

I shed the saffron robes. I bore the black, voluminous
and liquid as smoke or a squid’s cloud of ink. He was still
hidden to me. And dear Philomela. How often, as sisters,

were we placed side-by-side, praised for our identical
brows, identical size, oneness sounded where we twoed:
two eyes, two arms ending in two hands boned

like two wings, two legs swelling into our plural
hips holding a galaxy of jelly-like eggs, any of which
would split and split and split until a man emerged,

capable of this: keeping a girl-child alive, blood
still dried brown on her thighs and her tongue
cut out so every bite that she eats, breath breathes,

her wound wounds. Shut up deep in the forest,
a hind butchered cut-by-cut, she is kept fresh, alive.
How could I not kill and salt my own son, half

his, after what had been done, and boil and season
and serve and only after tell him what he eats.
Do not blame the knife for the cold of the blade.

Do not blame the reflection of the face he made.
Unnatural breeds unnatural; strange breeds
strange. The shit and the dirt floor and dark stain

her split maidenhead made. Trained by her needle
into the longest and last of instance his name, I do not
call, hidden in the thick stampede of branches

high in the tree, or the one who it is said was half-
me, but changed as I was changed, feathered
and beaked, still voiceless, now another species

who hears, lifted by the long muscle of air swelling
the roofless sky, sky without wall, without lock and door
and key. The horizon in the black eye, her without me.

Maggie Queeney