“A Calling”, “Something Sexier than Foxes” and “Gentle Bonfire”

In Poetry Issue Nine by Aya Elizabeth


A Calling

The sunrise burns us up. It’s been a long night

and nothing has been refused or taken back.

All of our friends are stealing night terrors

from the cracks in the walls. We have kingdoms melting

in our pockets. We have trails of crushed cherry blossoms

threaded through each rib. We’re reading The Ethical Slut

and hitting on German lawyers. In the Dutch winter

the parallel scars on my knees stand out proudly,

and at night when the clothes come off I’ll circle them

with black eyeliner, but he can’t recall

if they resemble any constellation he’s heard of.

I’m remembering an unscripted place, the picture of my father

with a blade between his teeth on top of a mountain,

and I want to earn the same grin that beams its own light

into the metallic wind. I’m remembering that time

I played an old-western villain, and I said that bar brawl’s

and pistol’s at dawn were nothing but child’s play.

I slid off my bullet belt like the softest dress and suddenly

I belonged and immediately rocket-shot myself

into the next morning, the next town, the next exile

that will lift me up from my sorrows. All of my stories

are about places, but all my favorite moments involve running away.

My first week in that small town in Holland I met a girl

and we went to a party where we pretended to be sisters.

We danced and in the dark I watched her glow

and I look at the Polaroid taken of that night

and I can’t believe that I take up any space at all,

can’t believe my own density when all I knew back then

was a faded girl who left so many times before.

Maybe I needed a strong enough winter

to push me back to California, or maybe it’s that night

that did me in, my longing to ask someone

to call me sister, invite me in, let me belong

completely, share blood with a stranger,

if only for tonight.

Something Sexier than Foxes

I tell him that any poem that mentions a fox

is immediately sexy. Unless it’s a ghost, blind,

or half-eaten, but we don’t bother with those foxes

when we mean sex. We mean the sharp-teethed

fragile beasts skinny young ones that run like

they hear a gunfire shower and cuts into the pine and horizon,

the brightest comet, last living star, blade of sun

in the wintered prairie and yet still wise

as ancient bark. The one with the grin

that says you’re not just the meal—

you’re the oxygen and the finest tangerine

and the vitamin D and just the dance partner

every forest creature needs. Maybe that’s just you,

he says. You—who is the fox. Who associates

foxes with sex. You who is younger

and historically flighty, but in this moment

it’s different. Amazing to carry stillness

without holding your breath first. Amazing

to be here in the wake of our human selves,

where when I say Fox I mean Sex and

who knows what tomorrow brings.

There are twin foxes with us in the bed,

neither one means what the other person means,

but what’s beautiful about him

(even in the midst of our disagreement)

is that he wants me here, now, human


Gentle Bonfire

Ghosts left a mess again, and I am talking to them,

delighted to be among the living and free to talk

to a calamity like this. Even when they go throwing books

from my shelves, breaking my spine, eating

the food I set out. I’ve got an alternate myth

of Icarus, where the radiation sought after

is a little more nuclear. We’ve all got troubles—

all the angels’ wings all have headaches,

the neon lights have insomnia, the meteorite

falls out of grace with its friends. The only continent

without any wars is wasting away, someone inherited

a fear of spiders. The bobcat wants to attack

the owl, the ark we built for ourselves

will give us splinters. Splinters multiplied

is a given. And if salt’s to melt the ocean,

then how else do we learn to be holy?

We’re still playing a game called

who broke the train because I’ve never heard

of a hunger this loud. If only I could strike

I’d be the best kind of matchstick, but to run away

with you would be divine. Hear me out. Take me whole.

Ghosts, delight me. And fear, be a gentle bonfire,

make my bed and cradle my wooden spoons,

but to burn me alive completely is up to the wind

and bonfire, I plan to bend.

About the Author

Aya Elizabeth

Aya Elizabeth is an artist, bookseller, and poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read more work by Aya Elizabeth .

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