All was depth and vastness, and I lived in awe of my own world before it was made shallow. Sailors swallowed, ships smashed, the spikes along my slim and supple spine hot with poison— true. A churning vortex, a wet abyss, the tall tales of tunnels of funneled ocean spinning down into doom, turned to symbols of vaginas as man eating maws—true. I could create a tempest in my teapot’s worth of seawater. None of the stories you have heard and in turn told to be retold are untrue, but neither are their truths complete. Once, I chased a cold current as blue as my own birth, mapping with song the starscape of a galaxy’s reflection, the light of which found your eyes already dead. Imagine, if you can, so differently designed, bodies built to wholeness from halves, imagine, if you can, limbed and protrusive of form as you are, imagine, if you can, our embowed bodies binding themselves in bliss to make the blood-fed rope that made the knot of our great merging, big as the fist of any god, gone now, our number too small for the effort to enumerate, less than the definition of the task of counting. You have made of me a legend, and left me lonesome. When the lion and the tiger were forced face-to-face, their contrived connection closed at a dead end, a novelty to pace a stage set with jungle pieces, born an unwilling performer, caged behind bars and viewing glass. You and I, we were not meant to meet. There was not, between our greatness, and your desire for it, the space enough left for love.
A good girl keeps her mouth shut, and a bad girl gets the sound smacked out, and a smart girl knows she will be punished either way. He brought his baby to me, to be fed at my breast, one of my own so fresh that alone I would reach between my legs to hold myself together there where I was wet and ripped to rags, a red paste that smelled of fever clotting in my palm, and the one born before the newest, who never took to suck and had not much grown though a year had passed, was in a basket by the fire, not dead though soon to die, though for days I had fasted and I had prayed, and when I would not take his child and feed it at my breast, we quarreled until he raised his stick and struck me, and the next day met him dead, and then the casks of funeral wine disappeared, and then, when his body was laid out, his house caught fire and burned and burned itself to nothingness, but I open my hands and they are no less empty then when I knotted them to fists. I will ask you directly, where is the power that proves my mark made in the black book, where is the reward for my soul sold, where is the wicked magic you are certain sure I possess?
-- Jenny Irish is from Maine and lives in Arizona. She is the author of the collections Common Ancestor, I Am Faithful, and Tooth Box.