[“We dressed our « unseemly » selves in meadow…”]
We dressed our « unseemly » selves in meadow lark and lusted. We « blue » rose up in • smoke, cock sure and • in our cunning, slipping into the hands of women as they paused • or beneath « in rest, » statues’ subcutaneous automata, erotica lly concealed under fabric’s stony folds. Chaste ned by the gods when one moon’s mitosis-made twin drew coy ly close, cant | ering the « roiled » tides askance, we crept beneath the earth’s • mantle to weather our win ter. In our subterranean bomb shelters’ circular routes, street dogs and hooded children dozed • mid-blizzard; there, we « as hawks do » inhabited « idly » idle hands and • made them do our • work. In their lunar work shops, the « dirty » gods turned pestle-burdened, pound ing flour, but in shadow they crept « as devil ry » down to us to stanch our lust • quiets a doubter.
In the years of our ruin, the suicide vest is haute couture; others wear anklets connected by a brief chain, so short it can’t dirty itself with the street’s dust. On the roof- tops we sleep where before we’d prayed; then the radio repeated its mandate: to build effigies no longer to the gods, but of them. Pyre- bound, they burned to bones and rose to the heavens, released from the burdens humans had bestowed on them. Below them, deer bound- ed through the streets, and boys made themselves minor gods in the abandoned workshops, golden flecks of gold leaf flecking their tongues where they’d touched one another. When I die, I want to watch myself ascending and know I look good, says one, gold a balm on the lips, a dusk shading the onion- skin of his eyelids.
Of your body, it was like a vicuña’s, all legs and spit. Your hair, what a bunch of eels writhing just past your field of vision. Ears abalone rejecting their pearls, and your fingers each a little green garter snake swimming in my brackish swamp, or closed to make a fist in a forest. Your smoker’s scent, the meta- tarsal musk of an animal gone under- cover. Your gaze milky as marble, distant as the square-irised eyes you’d filched from a goat at a taxidermist’s convention. Your tales of pomp and swagger, of victory’s hounds losing your trail, a peacock’s tail: mostly lies.
[“In the old days and unemployed, I’d idle in the alley…”]
In the old days and unemployed, I’d idle in the alley ways smoking or snipe-hunting unspent butts, uncertain in even the elegant manner I held my cigarette as if pipe wrench (spanner) for the motorcycle I imagined I’d own, enrapt ured then by men bound by their own devices in leather, strap ping. Unburdened, I imagined, amid crisis days I knew better than to be enchanted by, even then, but was; I was a child then: sexless, formless, practically pig – going to and from the school I’d quit a year before – tailed to see a senior I thought I loved (but actually wished to be), who daily emerged in leather jacket from behind a steel door, slamming so sudden (as pigeons exploded from sidewalk roost) ly I nearly leapt out of my skin each time, my metaphor a magic spell I wished to cast upon myself. Then passed by, this – a nod, no more – girl I’d spoken to scarcely once before.
Miriam Bird Greenberg is a poet and occasional essayist with a fieldwork-derived practice. The author of In the Volcano’s Mouth, her work has appeared in Granta, Poetry, and The Baffler, and been recognized with fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and the NEA. Some of her poems in this folio also appear in the limited-edition letterpress artist book The Other World (Center for Book Arts, 2019), designed in collaboration with master printer Keith Graham.