Two Poems | Beth Bachmann | Granta

Two Poems

Beth Bachmann

‘Under the skin, our skeletons / are braided with tendons – roses on an openwork arch’ Two poems by Beth Bachmann


You can melt a golden birdcage down into a golden bird:
you can melt a gun into a new gun or many guns into a tool

for the garden or the scaffolding of a house. We thought if
we covered the birdcage with one sheet, the bird would not

repeat what we did on the other. Under the skin, our skeletons
are braided with tendons – roses on an openwork arch – this is

how we move toward or away from each other depending on
the light. The guide says the best cages are see-through so

the imprisoned can see the other side and so the free will stay in
line and draw more boundaries. In the book of black and white

illusions, we see what we want to see. Some people will see
the egg-shaped dome of a birdcage and think womb: a child

in a cage exhibits the same repetitive behavior as a captured
or captive-bred bird – weaving its head back and forth. Mother:

in order to perceive the present, the brain must make predictions
based on the past so sometimes we see a face where there is none.

Pliny the Elder recalls an actor who enjoyed eating birds that while
alive had spoken in human voices. His craft was a kind of cannibalism.







and try to remember the day you were born,
how strangers in masks washed your tiny body,
the first sensation of warm water running over
your head as your father watched behind glass
and your mother lay half-naked, bloody, and being
stitched back up along whichever seam you left her.
There are rituals of water for cleansing your mouth
before offering a prayer: how long does it take to beg
forgiveness? The flower stem in the vase sucks
and straightens its spine to the rhythm of not yet,
not yet – The watercolor paintbrush is as bright
with pollen as the face of the snake. They said, sing
to yourself each day over and over, Happy Birthday.

Image © Katarina Z