Tyler Mills

I/ Self/ Woman in Berlin

If you ask me later if I knew

the city scattered its sequins

like starlight over the floors

of the clubs, if the city swallowed

death like the crescent of a melon,

if the city coughed out coal

powder in the swirling eddies

of the sky—the sunset like ostrich

feathers framing the face

of a movie star—I would say

no, no, but if you ask me

if I negotiated my wages

so my fingertips would not touch

the trolley floor when I dropped

my glove and saw the stretched

tongues of the shoes chewed

and stained and gapped at the heel,

so I could buy a hot-cross bun

at lunch though the marks shot up,

though the crust shone like a new coin

and could not be touched by the woman

with my face who waited until the line

brought her to the front, and the dough

smelled like saltwater and milk,

and her hands warmed the paper

worth the same as the dream she

whispered into the hair of her daughter

as she woke her in the lapis lazuli light

the night pulled into the room,

what would you want me

to say? I starched my blouse

and practiced the answers to all

the questions and ribboned my curls

and yes, I bought the knot of bread.

Her eyes tracked the curve

of the curb where pigeons gathered,

and I broke off pieces at my desk

while the sky swallowed everything whole.


Tyler Mills is the author of Tongue Lyre, winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award (SIU Press 2013). Her poems have appeared widely, including The New Yorker, POETRY, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, the Believer, and New England Review, and her creative nonfiction won the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize in Prose and has appeared in AGNI, Cherry Tree, the Collagist, and is forthcoming in the Rumpus. She is editor-in-chief of The Account, an Assistant Professor of English & Philosophy at New Mexico Highlands University, and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.