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SONG OF THE COLLECTOR

Here's the portrait, Wild Boy with Exquisite Neck,
as I like to call it, in my Wonder-
Cabinet where I keep days, each a nacre-backed bug
from a jungle, some creature
with delicate, enormous wings
or extinct fungi gone before

naming. My dodos, my days before
dying: a race of feral children, long-neck,
knee calloused, shoulder blades a wing's
stump. One boy sat long enough to wonder
at stillness, long enough to be painted — a creature
rendered noble as he watched a bug

dash itself against meager light, the bug
unaware of the glass pane, its last moments before
the eye of the boy, a creature
himself, fidgeting, wanting to scratch his neck,
now collared. He will wonder
at the buzz, that shine of wings

and glass. Not unlike this new specimen's wings
blue and black on the white ground. This bug
is almost my invention — since acquiring it I wonder
how it found its way before
finding me. I display it level with the boy's beautiful neck,
aside three eggs from the fish-bird creature

and the caul of the cyclops, the last creature
of its kind. But back to my One Without Wings,
another name for him: posing, his bitten neck
itching, proud. The dirty nails, the bug-
bitten welts inflamed — nothing is lost to the artist before
he's done. The last in my chain of roses leading to wonder,

this portrait, nothing lost but his name. I wonder
if he had one, if saying it makes a creature
more or less, the same as before,
as when I was nameless, amid the wing-
flutter of heart, in mother, small as the bug
on the sill the boy watches, dirty fingers on neck,

scratching. It's done and he'll stand, flex wing-stumps, wonder
what will become of his twin, flat creature — the bug
dying before itself in the glass — that strange collared neck.

      — Allyson Shaw