speak, he will
wake, and come
for you. My hand
over your mouth is
feathers stir, no
wind, oil upon
oil, his long beak
shines. Take this,
I have saved
it all slowly in
a shoe, zrób co
mówię, lodge it
in the gathers
at your waist and
Run, road to station
to the dim nodding ship.
Szybko. You will know no
one. If you hear me
calling you, moja
córka, close the
door to us. Run
until dark birds
disappearing like salt
in a stirred glass.
You turn off the lights this time and
lie still, a body shifting from its country,
climb gaunt gray waves into a sky built
deep within the fat matter of memory. Stirring
his tongue, he slips into your wet speech,
dismantles you quietly, rot threading plaster.
Organs are everywhere: on the workbench outside
animals left unskinned. Empty socket stuffed with
a dirty rag, only you know about the snake
pushing through high grass. He’ll slough until the world
offers an indifferent body. (Who can be choosy?)
This, your life – what is a stepfather for? For emptying
a ribcage, the warm meat of your parts lost as
his hands undo – your mother will say wings, whispering, but
in truth – you lose yourself under a loud human neck,
its gulping skin stretched over bones, over low vowels
you pray no one hears, not even you. These voices, glottal,
they travel with you, to Kraków, Hamburg, Cuxhaven, Nowy Jork,
to the factory where you cart bobbins in a skirt, again and again
arriving full, departing empty: sound rimming the lip of a bell.
Windows too narrow to let the light in. Dark swells
in your quiet inner room, like a mushroom sponging into root.
New world daughter threaded with horsehair worms, their
small farm sprouting even under your fingernail. Once you had a
past: the tremoring kerosene lamps, the hard stone roads still
come for you. But now shadows buckle into static, a man sent to
the distant tin-foil moon, doing nothing but walking, without gravity.
As if ours were a small world, well lit, the sounds you hear only footsteps
across the dust of a slackening galaxy; you, a mass of ice slow-spiraling.
Your young son flaps from the screen, what is it like, Mamusia, to float
Printed with permission from Allison Adair, copyrighted by Allison Adair @ 2015. This piece, winner of the Fall 2015 Orlando Prize for Poetry and selected by Finalist Judge Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, originally appeared in Issue No. 19 of the Los Angeles Review.