Betsy Wheeler
This corner of sky and field


She fell asleep & as she slept
the house became a bird—

her spacebreath a rustling in
birdlungs, ticking dreamseconds—

a slow motion flap of a white wingwall.
Birdeye windows gaze the wide night sky

above a land of hairy fernrows.
A sleeping girl inside a bird
is worth two alive on land.


This is a story based on a truer story.
She rarely smiles on the outside.

But that doesn’t mean
She’s not smiling inside her brain.

Inside the bird’s brain: her cupola.
Inside the bird’s heart: the eagle.
Inside the bird’s cupboard nestles her lungs.


The kitchen is the belly of the bird.
High-burning fire—iron clank

of the stove door shutting, cool patience
of the porcelain sink, she washes the dishes

simply to wash the dishes, hangs the damp
white towel to dry. Wiping down the counter

makes her sleepy & she sinks gently to the floor —
bent plastic legs, clay belly & breasts. The clock
ticks backwards & the bird rises to fly.


First came the snow: drowning
their white wingsails, grounding

them in the flurry. Bird’s black eye
hibernates—birdhead slowly buried

in a snowbank. Inside the bird it’s warm,
she keeps busy, moving like busy cooks do—

Folding white towels in half & half,
then thirds & thirds & thirds. Hidden
inside one folded square: 3 tiny white pills.


In time she learns to guide it, feathered
aviator, beaked balloonist. They rise high

in the sunbeams, hop wires to skim the cloudline &
come in gently always somewhere else to land.

She descends the gently used ladderleg to go
in search of milk or water; for tea or for

the bath. When she leaves, one guest appears inside
the birdbelly—apparition faintly chatting to himself
over a stovepot stirring stirring stirring.


The water like her forehead runs
Hot cold hot cold

Would she were a bandit she’d steal these
forest trees for fuel, or fly this thing

to Iceland for a dip. The elephant in
her aching throat trumpets song into

the starved for moisture ground. Why why
why one two three a million drops
at a time make the earth go muddy.


White cotton curtains surround the clawtub.
The bath has gone stale & cold but she’s

not moving, dreaming a companion who
could build her a brighter birdhouse.

Bedsheets hang & snap on lines—
climb the contour of the sleek birdneck.

The sound of an engine starting wakes her,
or was it the memory of crashing shorewaves
something to remind her of earthdwelling: love or raids.