Before branch became birch, before sky
became flight, before ground became
a verb, even before the sky raised its red
lanterns, even while their bodies circled still
inside each pale-shelled egg, the birds
were waiting for wings. They were always
the moral of the story. They knew what
they knew about jealousy by the way each tree
watched their wings rustle like and unlike leaves.
When the fair maiden brought her tears
to the hazel tree, they prepared. They sharpened
their stomachs. They sang to their talons blade, blade.
They sang to their beaks pick, pick. They sang on the girl’s
shoulders, feathers folded. They were patient. When
the clock told its story of midnight, they sang blade, pick
blade, pick, until the wicked were blind. Inside the birds’
throats, the sisters’ eyes watched those slippered feet,
delicate as glass, fox-trot in tune with her sharpest songs.