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A Ring of Pigeon Feathers

by Lois June Wickstrom

A perfect ring of pigeon feathers
heart and liver gone
unchewed down my little dog’s gullet
the bird’s throat still iridescent green and blue
Aztec ghosts chant in my bedroom
their blood circles a path in time
to tail wags and wedding nights

I have no use for ritual
I slip a plastic bag over my hands
to sanitize this hot death spirit
My fingers which have changed diapers startle
at the heat of the absent heart they drop
the spiritless bird heavy against the gold carpet

My mind tunnels through time
Buffy can catch a bird and shake it by the neck until dead
She can rip open the chest precisely as a surgeon
But when I hide her toy bunny she does not
look behind my back

Forcing my hands again into the sacred ring
I bag the bird through the prophylactic
the feathers feel --
my mother always said a feather is a letter from a sick bird
I follow the Aztec spirits out the door to the garbage can

I have dumped cold chicken carcasses into before
My big old male dog who has never killed
a pigeon in his life gives up his favorite
spot on the couch in my study
his sacrificial offering to her
I scrub the blood from the gold
the altar must be purified