Featherhand: Inquiry for the Department of Ornithology by Thad DeVassie

It was just another walk in the park as I tried logging my necessary steps and subsequent hydration. I recently began eating sunflower seeds, popping them like energy pills on these walks, which made me feel a little less self-conscious about swinging my arms and breathing and looking like a novice person walking in the park for steps. A bird called my name with perfect consonant-and-vowel alignment. It was walking behind me. I offered it some sunflower seeds. The bird ate from my hand, then ate my hand. It swallowed it whole like a snake might, but no outline of my full hand or fist was visible within its belly. It fluttered in place with excitement like a hummingbird, needling at any leftover hand remnants along my wrist. It flew far away to be alone with my hand and did so without any sluggishness, seemingly missing the full weight of a human hand in its stomach. As it perched in a thicket of nettles near a sprawling orchard, I began to pet its stomach gently with my detached hand. In return it sang its sweet birdsong that echoed across a meadow between us. With each gentle stroke to the bird’s inner cavity, my wrist sprouted gorgeous plumes of golden feathers. A group of birdwatchers began watching my every movement. I could feel their binoculars all over me. A brave ornithologist inched closer in his camouflaged jumpsuit, said everything would be okay, which, for the moment was not a lie. He shook the opposite of my featherhand with his own made of pine needles. He studied my feathers. He said it was a miracle, that he’d never seen such a sight, that I should count myself lucky for such a stunning tuft of feathers as I somehow avoided a carpet of beaks. I did my best to block out the part about the beaks, but nothing he said could keep me from worrying about when my hand might go numb from the petting, and what this would mean for all my newly formed feathers on this stump of a wrist. A Labrador retriever looked at me with one eye of jealousy, sensing the petting he was missing. His other was an eye socket deplete of any feathers. I began building a tiny aviary to protect my feather-hand. A trembling of finches made their way inside the wiry walls. A vulturous woman with massive talons who had been circling for some time, rested on my shoulder and chirped sweetness in my ear, suggesting everything will be fine until molting season.   


Thad DeVassie is a writer and artist/painter who creates from the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of three chapbooks, most recently THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA (Cervena Barva Press, 2023). He was awarded the James Tate Poetry Prize for SPLENDID IRRATIONALITIES in 2020. Find more of his written and painted work at www.thaddevassie.com.