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Alicia Elkort

You Must Not Disappear

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after Edvard Munch's "Young Girl on Shore," 1896 Lithograph

Sprigs of moss thrum beneath your soles, your breath full with sorrow.
Hooded yellow orioles whistle moon tides as you turn. Bees buzz bliss

in honeyed hives, while trees extend branches, shelter from the rain. Rain falls
to comfort you, plaiting patterns on the windowpane. The wild wind hums grace

notes as you lace the whales' song. And when you smile, contented with your skin,
the earth spins its axis– the spider's web remains. Go home.

If you would understand beetle dung and sugar cane, the answer in a meteor's arc,
the pull of pale echoes, if you could feel the shape of love in every leaf and misted

flower, in every grain of sand merely content when you walk past… if you could see
yourself as I see you, standing in stillness at the shore, a world of offering at your feet

brimming with life and adazzle at all the possibility… then you would understand the
ground beneath you is holy simply because you are there. Go home.

A Hanging

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Those boys at your heels
know no mercy,

blind to the dust-savaged

riveted with regret.
They're going to wrap

your neck, anger down
tight, then throw the rope.

And pull.
Imagine every hatred

witnessed from my branches,
every grunt

ravaged through
my leaves—

there's no wild horse
to fly you away,

only the anointed
can take you home

where the sacred sound
of your last breath

will raise up bark
and bough,

where the memory of all trees
is inscribed. Remember,

you once leapt
across mountains, carried

on clouds, the sound
of night-burnished lava

through your nostrils,

your unformed fingers
wet with the divine.


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The capacity to be fully oneself is a necessity
when it comes to creating love. – Katherine Woodward Thomas

she wanted to be a woman for him
    beneath her mirror of salt,
the man she saved from drowning.

she wanted to dress in silken skirts
    and chamois slippers that he might
name her wife, she in his embrace

waltzing across marble floors, unfastened
    and slow, even with legs like shattered
glass. she wanted to love a land-lapped

man who'd praise her sea-tangled tail,
    powered to sink a ship and trail
pearl-tipped sands through crystal

waters, her song echoed across waves.
    so truth tousled the sea's weeds
watery, wet-violet shadows. he would never

see the whole of her, this man in love
    with another woman whose voice and name
she'd wrapped around him in their bed.

her sisters sheared their kelp-twined braids—
    nacre for a knife to kill a man who loved
a woman equal to him in every way.

though she wanted to be a woman,
    the sea, wild and furious, would never
stop calling her home, never stop

turning and turning her to foam.


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I waited for him
led him to a shack
in the woods
where my sister gets it on
with the neighbor boys.
He didn't know I knew,
didn't know I saw him do it.

Mary was a little lamb
her fleece was white as wolf,

I planned all day,
marked trees
with girl scout scent,
rubbed leaves in my hair
left a trail
like in a fairy tale
bread crumbs and liver treats.

and everywhere that Mary went
her wolf was sure to follow.

He came bold,
he came dominant
he came unchallenged
he never thought twice
that a ten year old
red-headed girl
with a hoodie and freckles…

He followed her from school one day
it was against the law

In went my knife
as he crossed the threshold,
my knife with frog poison.
I slit that sucker right
down the middle,
extracted his heart
careful to wear gloves,
rubbed grandma's knife
with a rag of turpentine
then folded plastic wrap
around the blade, as if it were
a peanut butter sandwich,
put it in my pink schoolbag.

He never knew her innocence
would be his fatal flaw.

I buried that heart
under a sycamore tree.
Weeks later, in a nest of leaves
at the base of the tree, I found
a litter of wolf pups
abandoned and hungry.
I begged my father
to let me keep one.

It made the children laugh and play,
to see a wolf at school.

He decided a Canid
would protect me from whoever
murdered that poor man,
the one with his heart cut out.

Why does the wolf love Mary so?
the eager children cry.

No one would have believed
me if I told them I saw him
eviscerate the soul of Little Bo Peep,
then throw her bruised and lifeless body
across the room, like a ragdoll.
I watched him do it. Helpless.

Why, Mary loves her wolf,
her teachers did reply.

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