I was bound to a tree as the singing began.
Dancers used claw-tipped stakes
To jab the soil; I shook loose
From my skin; rose
Through a moon-shaped medallion
Hung from a pine.
Within a rainbow’s hollow bones,
My jade-adorned feathers
Began to murmur. I cut loose
A beak-full of sky: its shadow
Took the shape of a door.
I forced it ajar; pressed into the dark.
My wings held steady: gravity stiffened;
Lungs ached; soot and ash
Clung to my crest.
At a defile: mildewed diaries;
Muddied statues, worn featureless; heaps
Of rusted dials.
After seven days, a threshold
Etched with names; strewn with torn collars,
Beings less substantial than their hearth’s flame
Beckoned me: but I knew
I must stay if I ate.
I flew on. Cowering
Within spines of a split-open shell.
I found the soul
I had come to retrieve.
Placing it in my pouch,
I turned back: Once in its body
The blisters would heal.
Bent coins twisted from the grit; cries rose
From shards of once-loved words.
I could not pause; though my wings
Seemed to bend
From the sound’s weight.
After nine days: a cloud-ringed gate
Shouldered by stars.
I bellowed my song: awed the keeper;
Descending, sea spray
Cooled my wings.
I thrust the other’s soul into her body; she rose.
When I awoke, a cup
Of pine-scented water
Was offered, and I began
To tell this tale.
[Joseph Murphy is a professional editor and writer who lives in Michigan. He has had poetry published or forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Gray Sparrow, Fickle Muses and The Sugar House Review. Murphy is also a poetry editor for an online literary journal, Halfway Down the Stairs.]