this is where everyone comes to meet their bird of paradise, the posters say in fine printed blood. you tremble. this is where everyone comes to meet the keeper of the door to their salvation, the contracts say in saw-toothed ink. you avert thine eyes. this is where the spotted lamb is led to the slaughter, this is where the fox gets its grapes, this is where you reap what you sow. you claw at yourself inside-out till you’re all outside-in and then then you’re a fish in the toilet bowl, swimming swimming swimming. (there’s only one way for the fish to get out, but the fish won’t like that very much.) crow puts pebbles in the jar, one two three, one for a girl you wished to kiss, two for a gaze you wanted for yourself, three for a grasp you wouldn’t quite keep. you’re the crow, the fish, the spotted lamb lured to the mouth of the fox’s hole as a sacrifice—sorry—for the fact that you happen to be a lamb on the wrong side of the meadow. you’ve reaped what you’ve sown in the winter depths with only a moon to see your crimes— wishing, waiting, wanting, thinking of a girl until you can’t— and now you have to lie with it there, in the cold hard ground, you’ve dug your own grave bed from the permafrost that coats the hearts of this region and still you haven’t chiseled through to the softened hearts some plates told you exist, so you begin to believe that there aren’t any. they shovel dirt atop you. you watch with open mouth, open lungs, open heart; the dirt fills it all. one crow sits on the headstone of the spotted lamb, lamb’s blood coats the doorways, it’s your blood, they know you’re spoiled they know you’re spotted but in the end protection is a word for decorative fences with spikes on them to keep away crows. if the blood is spotted, it does not matter; they don’t believe in plagues anymore, just musket fire. hand comes through the dirt, through the doorway, through the dead and dying. it’s his hand. and he’s whispering to you that the war is over because the sky is clear of crows, and you’re no longer the fish in the toilet bowl, there’s a way out and it involves dirt in your eyes and soil in your lungs. it involves blood on the teeth and tongue and tender touches of his hand on you and a sky as spotted as the blood you spilt. the sky is clear of crows and muskets and fish and you can see in it that the rain is no longer; there’s a promise there and a puddle there and a partner there and you can look at a girl or even kiss a girl just as you can look at your boy or even kiss your boy. he helps you fold your torn and tattered wings back up, helps you bind them so they heal stronger than they broke, helps you shift to the side to take the weight off them (he shoulders it himself). there’s still dirt on the table, sometimes, and sometimes still blood—yours and his, you’re both spotted lambs, spotted lambs are still lambs—but when you freeze he pulls out some clorox and calls you his heavenly being with a thousand eyes in a way that’s probably too affectionate for that kind of creature as he helps you wipe the table clean.