The woodcock lies still,
head lolling towards the weight of his long beak,
matt black eyes camouflaged in mottled brown. I tug the silken down
against the grain with steady thumbs,
mindful not to break the cobwebbed skin.
Bared, the breasts are cool and smooth.
I crop the twiggy legs:
small claws gesture from the feather pile.
The wings I open like a book:
press down, stretch out the elegant pins,
scissor through the shoulder joint –
use a knife for the sinews and skin.
Turned over, the back is quick to pluck.
Incongruously large the head and feathered neck.
I cut them off, the long beak faced away.
The white-mounded rump is stubbled
by pale thick-rooted quill stumps:
with the knife point I enlarge the vent,
finger out the looped beige guts.
Squeezing beneath the wings I probe
for organs, anxious
not to squash the little bundle out of shape.
How clean it seems, trussed neatly –
though I can’t erase the trace
of talcum-powdered belly
from my fingers.