Back to Issue Thirty-Three

Syrinx, riverside


What I passed through to get here:
switchgrass, bulrush, cattail: brutality

of the brush: my brushing past &
how I got here at all: I thought

it was a haunting: a god this wild
could be god only of what lies

within his reach: & I fled: aware
the cost of such reluctance: sylvan

graveyard as much a mirror as
river’s surface: how it slips past

where I stood once: unremembering
my ankles cut into the current: wind

& morning everywhere: the tall stalks:
a danger of them: I did not beg:

but something like it: perhaps prayer: only
sisters of the river listening: I would join

them: something like joining them: his hand
in my hair: the sudden wheat: that I could take:

but it was my blood: cooling: how it turned
to water: glass running through each vein

carrying my own unbecoming: I
could not scream: his hand wrapped

around my throat: to find no throat at all:
no: but the reed I was:

I screamed for my body: I screamed
for him to let go: & still

the only sound that escaped me:
a low whistle: the pitch of wind:

& he heard this, & he called it song, the way a child mistakes
            his mother’s cries for laughter, the unknowing they share,
                        & the child thinks this song is for him, it is,
                                    & again: the song is his: this instrument: his:

when he cut away
at my body, I did not scream:

I suffered his desire. He fashioned me
to panpipe & this is called origin…

But listen: to originate means to come
into being & I have:

he thinks he casts music into the air
when it is my curse:

men, gods alike dance
to my breath: they go to sleep

warm in their memory of me: they
think it is the wind outside

that stirs them awake:
they walk to the river & find

not a girl, no:
but all of her blood.

                                    after Brigit Pegeen Kelly

James McKenna is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama, where they serve as Reviews Editor for Black Warrior Review. They are a 2019 fellowship recipient from the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets, and have poems featured in Hobart, Glass, Grist, and elsewhere.


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