Eating Ortolans

Contest, Poetry

Second Place Winner in the 2019 Ada Limón Autumn Poetry Contest

My first love consumed me / fast, the way an oyster / which slides unbroken past the teeth / is pressed apart by the tongue. / She was the first women my mouth / knew and from the very first, / in that dirty pink-tile bathroom, / I understood how it felt / to want something until my lips / went raw.

Poetry by Kate Leland


My first love consumed me
fast, the way an oyster
which slides unbroken past the teeth
is pressed apart by the tongue.
She was the first women my mouth
knew and from the very first,
in that dirty pink-tile bathroom,
I understood how it felt
to want something until my lips
went raw. But this poem isn’t
for that night, or the one when she
took my body to her tongue like
an ortolan bunting, the little bird so rich
and soft its eaten bones all; an act
so decadent its performed
under a napkin tent to spare heaven
the sight. No, this is for the nights
she woke sobbing like only
preacher’s daughters do. For the nights
we kissed and licked and ate
beneath the bedsheets
concealed from the father she feared
most. Love, it’s not that we were wicked,
some things are just too good
for the eyes of God.


Kathryn Leland is a poet from Austin, Texas. She is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi and holds a B.A. in English from Hendrix College. She is also an associate editor with Sibling Rivalry Press and recently served as a judge for a North Carolina Poetry Society writing contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hunger, Adroit, Rust + Moth, and Peauxdunque Review. Her chapbook “I Wore The Only Garden I’ve Ever Grown” was published in January 2017 with Headmistress Press. She lives in Mississippi with one cat and a collection of half-dead houseplants. (www.kateleland.com)


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