Select old, wild birds. Beware harsh beaks, horned spurs, claws toughened by years of defiance. Pierce the beak. Hang by the neck, the feet. Each man has his taste. Hook and hang them long enough to conquer disobedience.
Keep them in the dark. Convert the cellar into a hanging room: a stamped dirt floor to absorb the moisture they shrug off, dense walls to absorb sound. Keep your birds separate. Even when dead, their warmth communicates from breast to breast, stirring discord.
Permit yourself the luxury of appreciation. This bird is yours, now. Dawdle on the ruffled collar, handsome as a rope of pearls around the throat; eye ringed with the purple-blue of bruising; jewel plumage so thick it weighs down the wings. You can’t imagine how she flapped or flew.
Pluck right away and you experience the thrill of naked flesh, but the body will dry out. Your bird is ruined. Wait three days, maybe seven. Then and only then, strip off the feathers. Patience. Flesh and innards need time to ripen. Sublime flavour is attained when skin loosens its grasp on muscle. She oozes oil and perfume.
A gentle incision. Slice skin, not meat. Slide in up to the wrist and spread your fingers. Unpeel her body like wet fruit. Relish satin texture, the greenish shimmer of perfect ripeness. Keep going. Fillet scraps from bone, a job less bloody than you expect. Persistence rewarded with flesh that yields to your authority.
Lock the dog in the yard, to stop it lapping up the puddles that collect under the carcasses. Ignore the neighbours complaining they can’t sleep. The smile that shuts them up faster than any bellowed argument. The way they shrink away.
Time passes without needing to pay it much attention. Nights in the cellar, waiting for your birds. Their toes dripping, their eyes glazed. All resistance drained from them. The silence is balm, the scent delectable and rare. If only the dog would stop barking.
Rosie Garland is a novelist, poet, and singer with post-punk band The March Violets. Her work appears in Under the Radar, Spelk, The Rialto, Ellipsis, Butcher’s Dog, Longleaf Review, The North and elsewhere. Forthcoming poetry collection ‘What Girls do the Dark’ (Nine Arches Press) is out in October 2020. She’s authored three novels: The Palace of Curiosities, Vixen, & The Night Brother, which The Times of London described as “a delight…with shades of Angela Carter.” In 2019, Val McDermid named her one of the UK’s Top 10 LGBT writers.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower