Inside twenty smallish cages,
The only moving things
Were the eye sockets of the ortolans.
I was four times my size,
Like an ortolan
In which there is a lot of millet.
The ortolan drowned in the Armagnac.
It was a small part of the recipe.
A dying French president and a napkin
A dying French president and a napkin and an ortolan
I do not know which to prefer,
The sweetness of the meat
Or the bitterness of the entrails,
The existential crisis of the bones
Or the nausea.
Napkins covered the guests’ heads
With blank laïcité
The aroma of the ortolan
Could not escape.
Could not see their sins:
It was a thick napkin.
O thin Aunt Alicia,
Now let's go into luncheon.
Today you will learn to eat ortolans.
What are ortolans, Aunt?
Exquisite little birds.
I know French accents
And uvular, fricative ‘r’s
But I know, too,
That the ‘r’ in ‘les ortolans’
Is hard to swallow.
When the ortolan flew into Gascony
It marked the edge
Of government-sanctioned endangered species protection
At the sight of an ortolan head
Sticking out of Mitterrand’s mouth,
Even the board of directors at Tyson Foods
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over to a churchyard in Jarnac
Followed by his wife and mistress.
Once, a fear pierced them,
In that they mistook
His illegitimate daughter
The napkins are running low.
The ortolan must be the Special.
He was chewing all afternoon.
He was chewing
And he was going to chew.
The ortolan sat
In his isthmus-faucium.