Miriam Bird Greenberg

[“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.

Of Glamour

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-

of his eyelids.

Of Merism

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.

Photograph by Tonatiuh Ambrosetti

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.