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.