I was a dead end. a girl who stood up
and ran. but what did I know. now, I am a girl
who is being born. I fall through a hole
in the earth and end up in your bedroom.
I brush basalt from my neck. the red dawn
turns every man with a rough shaven face
into you. into a body that I remember naming
white ceiling. devil-bird. you fresh adventure.
me, on the sea floor gathering coral. pieces
of plastic boats. let me fill up until I am
all water. or full of crackling leaves. in between
the Beethoven, your throat of milk, your body
inside mine like some fire-breathing chimera.
forget this: when I wore white and chased steel
down the street. when I wore white and you
called me a bride. my cruel tongue buckles in
my mouth and you switch bodies like a ghost.
but what do I know. I am just a girl who wished
on a dying shimmer of light. I am kissing
all the tigers. I name them after what I have lost.
what is missing from the photo
is a body that is learning new language.
it is curling away from the edge
in a glassy film—peeling laminate plastic.
soft and curling ribbon
of the remnant. my knees click and knock
in wooden echoes. a bird flew
into my window this morning
and I can’t tell if this means something
like bad luck. but the sun paints shadows
of moths on my curtains
and my cat chases them like ghosts.
I give myself permission to live
in the cracked silver of a mirror.
to call my mother and tell her a lie.
to love the skin on the back of my neck—
the parched pattern of looking up
into blue. into dust-heavy wind.
the place I am going is beautiful and lonely.
my loves cry to me from the verge
and their voices are small string instruments—
faint whines in the milky air. what is missing
from the photo is my pain unraveling.
is my unbroken search for heat
in a canyon built of ancient stone
and its frigidity. unflinching shale and silt.
I am not sure what to name this but
it is something sideways from longing.
Sara Ryan is the author of I Thought There Would Be More Wolves (University of Alaska Press), and the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Brevity, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, DIAGRAM, Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, Thrush Poetry Journal and others. She is a managing editor at Iron Horse Literary Review, a memoir reader at Split Lip Magazine, and is a PhD candidate at Texas Tech University.