Without Prayer or the Place in the Forest

for Selkie

In the magic realist novel, we find the firebird
in the attic of your grandmother’s diary
where the last poet she went to school with left it
burning like a ner tomid
before she was caught in the wind of rolling stock and ash
all these stories come to,
their tracks stitching history’s scars.
Its wings a pageant of pomegranates,
its tail the tears of a golden chain,
it rosins for us a story
no one else was left alive to tell
and whether between rafters of pages we are still listening
or whether in the last chapter we write ourselves out
you know the ending,
everyone does.
Look. In the garret neither of us can pay rent on
your kid is kicking their heels in spring sunlight,
the books are stacked like showgirls
and I can see those gold feathers
shivering inside your shirt.
Your great-aunt told her story until she ran out of it.
What you feed a firebird on
had better have heat.
While your kid crunches those red seeds like hard candy,
we will rustle a nest up
from string and excelsior,
behind all this dry ink
is still white and black fire,
when the curtains came down
the bricks stood against the blue sky.
One of us has a cocktail book of matches
and with all this rubbish from the last owner,
we can surely find something to burn.

(Editors’ Note: “Without a Prayer or the Place in the Forest” is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 31A.)

Sonya Taaffe

Sonya Taaffe reads dead languages and tells living stories. Her short fiction and poetry have been collected most recently in the Lambda-nominated Forget the Sleepless Shores (Lethe Press) and previously in Singing Innocence and Experience, Postcards from the Province of Hyphens, A Mayse-Bikhl, and Ghost Signs. She lives with her husband and two cats in Somerville, Massachusetts, where she writes about film for Patreon and remains proud of naming a Kuiper belt object.

Photo Credit: Rob Noyes

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