by Sarah Day

red plumage, head narrow, serrated edges, unafraid. Flightless. Question mark.

            A wing, fully extended, each feather drawn in perfect detail like a fan. A foot, skin the texture of dried earth.

            A head, still in profile, one eye staring dully from the page, the charcoal stops abruptly at its neck.

A beak, slightly open as if about to speak, looking back at him, unafraid.

            His words, long hasty threads, sentences covered by their endings, it is getting dark, his fingers stiff with cold, snow tight around his knees.

            A promise, pledged a thousand miles away.

            And then the lunge.

            He knows how to use it. How to sit quietly behind a flightless bird, so quietly it never knows you are there until it feels the cold edge of steel against its throat.

            He draws it first across his cheek, the slice he will make, drags the knife point along his months unshaven chin, teasing the skin.

            He knows the breaking moment, when to draw blood, when to draw back, applies it to the flightless bird, his question mark, with a tenderness like love.

            His prize is a heavy weight against his fingers. Theirs, his charcoal finger prints, the insides of his bird, the feathers gone, bones, thin and fragile, splayed inelegant across the page. Long strands of nerve and muscle, immaculately labelled. A streak of blood. Seconds, tapped in charcoal. The time he spent there in the dark, the cold air, the hush, waiting for it to take off, concluding that it wouldn’t, with just enough certainty, but no more than that, to write beneath it flightless. Question mark.