by Aya Elizabeth
Last Night I Dreamt that Fire Haunted You
Given that we are always the subjects
of our own ghost stories—like these
ash antlers I hold in my hands, the unborn
lemon seeds, a night sky that looks like
a bitten stone, the shivering branch,
the wolf warm in the teeth of its mother,
my arms a locked jaw until it must release
a howl. I cannot look at certain street
corners because like a snap of the leash
I’ll remember something harsh I once
knew. I rather cross the street with my eyes
closed. How did I become so destructive?
It’s a danger to want everything. It’s the
only way I allow myself to want you.
In a moment, I brim, I buckle. Moments
of hunger. They have the look of falling
lemons and wet hair almost reaching a
collarbone. I told myself that this is what
living looks like: something aching just right,
until it’s as if you chose it. Rub sugar into
bitters, or I’ll be the sugar. Add star, or I’ll
be light. But I’m not reading any more fairy
tales about children climbing into ovens, or
horse heads growing from palm fronds. If I
can’t deceive myself, let my train whistle like
it hasn’t seen its own beauty for a long while.
Let this body look like it could be everything
you ever wanted and still retain its shape. Let
my heart grow fast and dim like a cotton wing
on fire. Hold my wishful head for minutes
until minutes become equal to hope.
What Kind of Animal
I build a fence around this particular
dusk and trap myself inside. I believed
that if someone read my palms while my
fingers were crossed behind my back that
the opposite would come true. So much
unmanageable faith in all that can unspool.
So much growth for one human bone to
endure in a lifetime, but for all those cells
we still believe ourselves to be filled by
the sticks and stones that break them. I want
to bandage myself all the way up without
losing the feeling every bit of the world on
my skin. Sewn girl with human hurt, with
each scab a rising sun. I remember falling
from my rooftop, the scabbed knees that made
a warrior child out of me. But it never left,
being in wonder at the feeling of just a little
bit of pain. I listened to the red running monsters,
gave myself a bear hug and rolled into the dirt.
If I am only animal, let me be a soft one. Let
myself be anything but a fragile species,
carving myself into cave walls. Let me see beauty
as written, or devoured, but never worn.
Aya Elizabeth is an artist, bookseller, and poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Konch Magazine, Typishly, The Write Launch, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Habitat Magazine, Delmarva Review, The Same, Twyckenham Notes, and Bluestem.
Art by Michelle Johnsen
Michelle Johnsen (art editor) is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.