“Crow Daughter” by Gabriela Avelino

Carrion-child, flesh of my flesh
You clawed from my womb with gnashing beak & blackened feathers
Wings soft as pale rose petals
Quivering as you howled at the waxing moon
How precious the sound, how it made my bones tremble—
The first and dying scream
Of your newborn innocence

Welcome to a world with more sins than forgiveness
More predators than prey
More empty bellies than gentle hearts
A world with no respite
Save the silence of a shallow grave
A lesser woman would teach you how to love
I will teach you how to survive
How to sharpen your beak on sorrow’s razor-edge
And cut your claws on hate
How to memorize the shape of that chasm in your chest
To caress its contours, plumb the depths of its darkness
For your hunger is a teacher, your hate, a gift—
Feel them, and know you’re alive

Now come with me; we’ll follow a blood-trail scrawled in the snow
The crimson effigy of a dying fawn
Watch how my beak slides neatly between the ribs
To pierce the sweet-soft heart underneath
Look, see how the heartstrings stretch like taffy
And snap, silent and severed.
Now you try—slide your beak deep inside—
You’ll know you’ve reached the heart when you taste the bitter sting of memory
For nestled in the heart of every dead unbeating heart
Is a knowledge that precedes all knowing
A substratum echo of your death-before-birth
Buried in the silence of your first shallow grave,
My fragile womb.

Never again will you fit perfectly inside
But one day, I’ll flow inside of you
For crows feed on carrion, and I too will decay
These brittle bones and wilting feathers,
This flesh that melts like candlewax
I will not teach you to let me go;
Instead, I’ll show you there’s nothing to hold on to
Every breath we take is one less until our last
And every feather that falls away is another we can never get back

But the lessons I carve in your flesh and bone
Will live on, immortalized through memory.
When your carrion-child claws from your fragile womb
When she howls at the light of a waning moon
You’ll think of me, and know.

You will teach your daughter the taste of rage,
The shape of hunger
You will teach her how to survive.

Gabriela Avelino is a Filipino-American writer with a passion for night skies and rainy days. Her work has previously been published in Solarpunk Magazine. When she isn’t writing, she can be found sketching, dreaming, and taking long walks in the woods. Find her online at avelinothewriter.com.