Daughter-I did-not-have, come
to the colony collapse
in our backyard—wasps
crawling in slow gold
demented arcs over the hive half-
glued to the branch,
not eating any more, not building
Move closer—the bewildered wasps don’t break
from their parade….
And there’s the brother-you-did-not-have:
bolting joyfully across
the grass yelling about kites—.
Life there! Life! And craving…
our wasps keep looping, making
nothing of themselves.
…remember tumbling out
in ruddy clots & strings
& rubbery approximations…
This time, last autumn.
A mouth a pinch of dust
Daughter undone. Daughter who wasn’t:
I bank with other
fish, flattening one cheek
against the mud, turning the other
to the glistening air.
My one dark eye
discolors, shrivels to a speck.
Open the cabinet door—no plates, no cups—
but on one shelf: little footsteps in the dust—
a child has walked through hungry—
is she in the storeroom beyond the blowing curtain
or in the unlit corner
where piles and piles
are stacked unevenly—
—turn with me quickly—
is that fish, bird, flower creaking around us?
—keep moving—it’s possible she’s just up
Inside her room the shadows are stuck.
She recites her nightmares
in the half-dark: mother
walking bewildered through the pieces, draped
in a bedsheet,
porcupine spitting its tiny arrows black
as rice into my hands—
my grandmother holding an empty tray,
my grandfather slurping his soup.
the calendar, sees dust
in the boxes, x-marks through everything.
It was hard to be
tender, harder still
to find her mouth, to get her
to speak. As though she were a doll. Easier for me
to dissolve. Poof! Now we’re just the circling
dust. Spinning off—what’s
but Quiet: here it is in its best
awaiting our arrival, its mouth
full of flowers—
its wedding with Unsayable & Unsaid,
my constant suitors.
I am floating by, cloud for a face, pieces
of child folded into squares inside my body—
my son says I did not hit
I did not bite I did not throw
the boy who did that is far away
in another land I’m a fireman
a working man an artist
it is the other you’re after
that one doesn’t speak your language
that one has a sister
At a particular time the baby ended. You ended.
There was no calendar for it, no mark.
Morning was dark in the hospital parking lot
when they took you—to where? I wish I’d asked. I wish
they’d given me a sack of you—a thumb-sack I could stroke
& carry in my watch-pocket.
When, in the moth-green gown, I looked
up from the strapdown, seconds after being sunk,
I asked: Are you sure she’s dead? If so, can you tell me
why? The staff looked down. They had
no face for it, but the blunt doctor
paused at the door, before walking out.
Once I went mean-mouthed,
spat out: I wouldn’t have had
a her—. Not
in this ring, this pandemonium,
these cutdowns, these pried-open-
by-razors, the flatirons, the dumbing
bells, the straight-bed circus, the parade of flat mirrors,
not a her: fast-ditched, cinched
wrung out, roped.
I was afraid she’d be twinned. Afraid she’d be
mouthless. Afraid she’d not hunger. Afraid she’d
be halved. Afraid I’d tie myself around her, un-
willing to release either of us—
Little girl I could not love
because you ended
before you had a voice or ears to hear me,
I give you this armful of autumn, the flyaway
leaves, tumblerfuls of scarlet, the shimmering
tangerine bouquets in the branches & the cleaning wind
in lieu of the dark tight shoe of the mind, its
She chides me
for calling her little calling her girl
was not even a thumb-whorl I she cries
The leaves this time
were bloody streaks of gold
She is the soft part of drapes I am looking through
she is the rain
that lashes away from this lashes at that
Sometimes she is patient—sometimes she hands me
a stack of the day’s sufferings:
a vexation of arrows, a concave sky
& a tray of split violets & the mouth of a river & the blood’s litany,
or she offers me the mirror with its reminders:
my beautiful mercurial children, steady-eyed husband,
a few windows with light, sparrows….
She says she prefers not
to be my wagon
or my weight. She says kindly
I am not to talk to her again.
from Pretty TripwireFind more by Alessandra Lynch at the library
Copyright © 2021 Alessandra Lynch
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.