Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Self-Portrait as Ernestine “Tiny” Davis

Call me hippo. Call the woman beneath me
a broken boat, a thin white skiff, a toothpick
unhinging a speck of pepper from between
my gapped teeth. Call the curtains closed.
Call that tour bus to cover my breasts.
Once, a man scraped me jagged as a pinecone.
I scraped him white as a star, then left him
and his head in a trough beside a pen of pigs.
Call the trough home. Call Daddy out
of this wet house. I can’t sing without hearing a man
slipping below water clean as butter, clean
as a roach sliding down the thin throat of a crow.
Call the road from Chicago to Memphis brief
encounters with an ax and a woman
who carries dust in her mouth. Call Jesus
down from that cross. Call my tongue a crown
of thorns, a patch of nettles sunk deep in an arm.
I’ve found every sparrow God has forgotten
to watch over. I’ve wreathed them in briars
and hung them from the back fence. They say
they’re tired of singing. They sang only to be noticed.
I am noticing. They are noticed. Funny little beasts
often mistaken for something that should be pierced,
a spine broken on a thorn, then eaten—breast first.
Call me tiny, anything small: an acorn
lodged in the throat of a thrush. Choke. A claw
squeezed from the purple head of a flower. Prick.
A hunk of pork butt plucked from the gums
and placed back onto the tongue. Gag. Then swallow.
Feed me. Call my appetite a kind kingdom.
Call me Queen. King me.  end  

“Self-Portrait as Ernestine ‘Tiny’ Davis” from King Me, 2013 by Roger Reeves, used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

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