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The Year of Blue Mornings

 
I.

 

In the wrong teeth, my name is a litany

of broken things. A dangerous music

thrumming in the distance, and I, thirsty

bird at a kind man’s closed window come back

and back. Call me slack-keyed. Call me quick-

silvered beauty. My Dead sing to me

from the Book of Night. Sing of the salt-grit

girl, barefoot, wandering the lost city.

Past the clock tower’s lit face anguished

in the river, past the low bridges and still

something in her begins to grow restless.

From the blueprints of her voice, I have built

a cobblestone woman. Hear them whisper—

rooms inside myself I dare not enter.

 

 

II.

 

Rooms inside myself I dare not enter

beckon me Come in. I am a broken

bell of yes. I am an arrowless quiver.

What I mean to say is I know I’m home

by my leaving it. What I mean to say

is don’t let me go. See how I splinter

when the light hits just so! I want to take

my shoes off. I want to swim in the river.

My body is a cobblestone city.

There are riots in the streets. Take my hand,

says the man with compass lips. He kisses me

and I know where I am. Kisses me and

I’m not sure I was ever here at all.

Loneliness is a name I call and call.

 

 

III.

 

Loneliness is a name I call and call

until it becomes my own. January

spreads its gnarled fingers like a trawl

through the muted streets. I was born in a city

of echoes. I was born in a room made

entirely of blue mornings. They live

in me still. I will know myself by name

when the sparrows flee my lungs. I’d give

my voice for the music of frantic wings.

Tell me I’m not merely a box of mirrors,

but a fix, the slow unclenching

of a phantom limb. Listen: Here is

my blue song. My blue hands, their blue shiver.

They pulled a blue girl from the river.

 

 

IV.

 

I pulled a blue girl from the river.

I have been ripping her, night after night,

from the dark currents of my hunger.

The Book says everyone in my dream-life

is a shadow of myself. Each face, my own.

Stone by stone, the world sunken in me.

The Book says to die is like coming home.

Blue hands around our blue throat. How sweet

the breath that knows not what’s coming next.

The Book says it’s better not to question

the opening door. My name is a secret

waiting for the right mouth to nest in.

Swallow the river until the guilt runs clear.

Promise me there are no saviors here.

 

 

V.

 

Trust me—there are no saviors here, where

the wind breaks itself against a body

in order to be heard and my want spares

nothing in the dark. My Dead leave me

to my own devices. I wear my

vices like a barbed wire dress. Look how

I whittle regret into something I

can carry on my back. Call me hollow-

bellied. Call me Namer of Things I Used

to Be, all the versions of myself I’ve shed

through the bluest cities—small gods who bruise

their wrists with prayer, who wait for their own dead

to find them. Small gods, all of us, in this need.

Has there always been winter in me?

 

 

VI.

 

There has always been winter in me.

A white silence. Errant bloom. I, who kneel

at the edges where the tamed grow wild with grief.

I, who must blue my flesh to know I’m real.

My Dead remind me I am more than my bones.

Take me down to where the river offers

itself to the sea. Take me back to the stones

that know my toes by heart. To the waters

I give back the girl. To the girl I give back

my hands, now fevered with March. I cup her face

in spring: sweet orange and honey and lilac

unhinging. I lift my mouth to the cruel grace

of the living and drink. Steel-tongued, I wake

with my hair loose and my new skin ripe with ache.

 

 

VII.

 

With my hair loose and my new skin ripe with ache

I take my two good hands and tear down

the clock tower with its ghost-ridden face.

I pull the honeycomb from my throat, drown

the bees in the river. I listen long

enough to the thick and voiceless static

to know my Dead will never finish their song.

I lay my old name in the reeds, a basket

I weigh down with stones. Goodbye to the room

of blue mornings. Goodbye to the city

of ruin I draped around me like a tomb.

Let winter’s recessional flood the streets

with relief. Please god, let a kind army

of teeth echo my name into litany.

 
 
 

Victoria Lynne McCoy's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Best New Poets, The Offing, Drunken Boat, The Collagist, The Paris-American, and Washington Square Review, among others. She earned her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Long Beach, California.