Out of the Coalmine/Into Exam Room Lights

Human eyes and mortal digits
Aren’t any good at carbon dating.
I keep feeling around the ridges,
Wondering if I’ll have to crack it open entirely,
If there will be rings inside like a tree
Or if some hateful liquid will seep out,
Stain my fingers,
Mark me forever as the kind of person
Who breaks things
That aren’t really theirs.

I think it would feel like a wishbone,
To dig the pads of my fingers in and rip,
Or the sound of broken fibers and bouncing buttons.
Like catharsis.
But what if it’s wet and fleshy and biologic
And I make a wound–in myself–
That I won’t be able to push back together
As I bleed out?
Luckily, I’ve always been passable
With a needle and thread.

I worry it around in my hands,
Sure for now that I feel a fluttering beat,
When I hear the chirp of a caged canary
Twitter from behind thick cloth.
One of the secrets in my collection,
But not to me–
Fed and nurtured for twenty years,
When I wasn’t trying to strangle it
Or draping decorative distractions,
Covers shaped like button-eyed cocks,
Around its hidden home.

I set the novelty down gently in its velvet waiting-case,
Stride across the room and let the yellow bird
Blink madly against the cruel exam room lights.
It’s sickly pale.
I reach in with shaking hands,
Pin down its wings and look between its spindly legs.
I’d never even considered
The old canary may be a boy.