The Taxidermist Takes on an Apprentice

Patty Paine

When asked, she says it started with chickens

on a cousin’s farm, mayhem

of movement, reptilian fluttering irruptions.

Such a fine line between phobia and phillia .....

Draped across workshop benches creatures hover

between alive & dead, artificial & real. First lesson:

a study-skin, Sparrow Hawk, (always start with birds .... easy

to procure, small enough to be worked

at a kitchen table). You’ll get used to the smell

of “high” flesh, oozing fluids, the sound

of crunching bone. Work-out out the rigor

mortis, inspect for shattered bones, torn

skin, establish cause of death.

Note: left eye, blood-full. Think flown

into window, not rock thrown by a boy.

Inject eyes with water so they can be

measured, replaced with glass.

If the skin is beginning to rot, treat

with borax to stop further loss.

Accept that you can never really stop

further loss. You’ll mend countless bones, salvage

slipping skin, ruffle innumerable feathers. You will

become intimate with the necro-

geography of Eagle Owl, Hawkfinch, White-Crested

Laughing Thrush. You’ll be privy to secrets

of assembly, but don’t dare believe

you’re breathing songs

back into the dead.

“The Taxidermist Takes on an Apprentice” Erasure. Source: “On Necro-Ornithologies Ornithophobia,” Merle Patchett, Antennae, Issue 20, Spring 2012.

about the author