Procne Unravels the Nightingale

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By Larry Duncan

When she kisses him,
he does not kiss her back.

His lips are dry and cold,
chilled by the ice in his drink.

Her sister was right.
Tongues swallow secrets
easier than bread.

She opens her eyes
and his eyes are open, too,
but not to her.

They are transfixed
by a flock of shadows—
a frantic flight of wings,
naked branches pinned by the wind,
a kind of cross-eyed intensity
bordering on terror.

This is what it’s like to kiss the dead, she thinks,
What an ugly bird.

Without a word, she rises,
and returns to the stove
where caste iron pots boil
a sea of strange soup
and kitchen knives love children, too.

Previously appeared on Dead Snakes and Crossroads of Stars and White Lightning.

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