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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.