99: Philadelphia

April 11, 2019 · 5:00
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by Emily Skaja

           ⏤city of hot pavement
                                       addressed by hot pavement,
           boiling puddles studded
with floating syringes, paper kites.
           A bridge swung over the water
                                       with direction, like a fist.
           All the time he was trying to show me
how he was a stuck door
           with an eye-hole punched through
                                       where I saw only
           gashes of light.
Brute. He locked me out.
           I walked 3rd Street
                                       all the way north.
           The day’s interminable heat.
Sweat tore up my thighs.
           Cherry trees, I remember,
                                       were blooming
It was a house I was always
           walking back to.
                                       I wasn’t delicate.
           The door was blue.
So it was
           that the palm of my hand
                                       held a red bruise
           shaped like a bird.  
A lit crow. Flamed.
           How sharp it is
                                       to be wrong-fledged.
           To be rope ravel
winging out
           of syncopation.
                                       Tried trying.
           Just once I wanted
to hit & hold the person
           who could hit & hold
                                       me down.
           I wanted the bruise
& the voice that was sorry.
           Terror to give up control⏤
                                       terror to name it.
           There was a bottle.
There was a bottleneck exit.

“Philadelphia,” from Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.