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Tongue

The problem is not nightpeople gathering in boothsor a game where you select who to save from an apartment thats on fire. But at night, the silver bathroom stalls in the Multiplex crack open as if I am the last horse to wander out during the credits. What I mean is, my thighs sometimes still feel like the whites of a poached egg. There is logic to thinking about digger wasps, solitary insects that excavate nests from the soil and then straddle their prey, usually an August cricket, ashy as the blade of a waterlogged feather. And at night, the hermit thrush calls, flutters to a new tree, calls, and soon the grove hosts a quorum of these nightingale songs when there is only one traveling from tree to tree, to an oak like the one shading my porchI go there at night to breathe. In the myth of Philomela, the King puts his knife down Philomelas throat after he finishes, then cuts her tongue out. Before she becomes a thrush, she weaves what happened: images in a bolt of cloth, a kind of flag. The newspaper pays for them, the flickering paper flags leaning on the bottom panel of the doors in the neighborhoods. Again this year, before dawn, the truck door slammedI heard someone cross the street. When I woke, flames were mouthing the air.

Tyler Mills

From Tongue Lyre by Tyler Mills and published by the Southern Illinois University Press, 2013 by Tyler Mills. Reprinted with permission of the author and Southern Illinois University Press.

The Nightmares Hand


Still swimming in night-milk you watch like a movie the lived dreams of your childhood and grandma putting out plates of food in her kitchen The memory of that soft-edged blackness steals furry in your brain You can see it on the inside of your skull bone on the private side of your forehead the soft black cloud like the deadly creep of a flameless fire that seductively kills Theres a rocking of the bed and under the elastic of your striped pajamas a hand creeps You remember the finest of black hairs on the knuckles Thats why the animals crouch in burrows in the small hollows of your mind awake in the night Thats why they huddle there in the darkened hole of memory until light cracks Then, only then do they creep from their small, secret holes to find the knots of green to eat and you the faces of yellow eggs and the coughing sharpness of toast

Claire Ortalda

Kathleen Tyler

Port Arthur, 1939


The past, wrecked accordion, plays on, its one tune My song, its one breath my breath, The square root, the indivisible cipher Charles Wright, Sky Valley Rider

Millymy name, ring of sea glass, scar crimping a wrist, O of your obituary oh Mother, lips purpled in death on the examiners table, belly split open like a prayer book, last gesture of your body: leaking fluids down the drainage gutter. Pale feet, little nails. Afternoon light lost in palm tops, wind dragging its rusty blade back into earth. We crossed Pier Bridge, the mainland stapled to Pleasure Island, spit of land dredged from the sludge of the bay. Drums of oil refineries rising like old bones, sad tope. I held your hand, Mother sudden rain loping toward the future, your scarf floating over me. The roller coaster I didnt want to ride, its twisted vertebrae splintering the sky. You clutched me under your arm through our slow rise and terrifying fall, sandpipers and terns spotting the beach like blood on an old bandage, then night, its onslaught. You bought a ticket to the dance hall. I waited on a bench out back, enthralled with the blink of blue neon. When you reeled me homehe was there. You slapped me, said call him Daddy, empty gin bottles, the slip and smack of sweat on his face, yesterdays ironing undone. That day fired from the dredge, the Mobile, he hurled insults: me, little churl, and you, Mama, queen of whoredom, he grabbed the iron and struck your belly, your head. You could not call my name with a double fractured jaw, but it goes on and on, your voice beating out its only song.

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