When my daughter starts asking I realize
I don’t know which, if any, birds
have penises. I can’t picture how swans
do it. I’m even confused about bees:
that fat queen and her neurotic workers,
her children grown in cells. I’m worried
by turtles and snakes: their parts hidden
in places I have never seen. How do they
undress? Long ago, awash in college
boyfriends, I knew a little about sex.
I understood the dances and calls,
the pretty plumage. Now, I am as ignorant
as a child. We have gone to the library
to find books though I know sex
is too wild for words. The desire to be
kissed is the desire to live forever
in the mouth of pleasure. My God
I can never tell my daughter the truth.
It is a secret the way spring is a secret,
buried in February’s fields. It is a secret
the way babies are a secret: hidden
by skin or egg, their bodies made of darkness.
‘Birds and Bees’ by Faith Shearin, Moving the Piano