It’s Impossible to Keep White Moths

by Emily Skaja

from flying out of my mouth.

I am 25. I paint the door blue. I go in when he tells me
to stay out. Next to a billboard

in Philadelphia that says Your Message Here,
I am sewn into a dress. On Broad Street, ravens

lurk on the Divine Lorraine Hotel as if to say
Always a corpse flower, never a bride.

Facing south, I can make myself apologize
for anything. My voice is thick—a shroud of bells.

But will I listen. What I hear in the dark
is my own blood stalking me

like a drunk boy wild on cheap gin
swinging his hammer

to nail a tree swallow flat to a barn door.
A bird is a vessel. It carries a field.

There are nights when I sleep on the couch
lift macramé lace to my cheek from a hope chest.

Outside, a teenager shoots a teenager shoots a teenager
The cops come to measure the street.

They ask me, What did you see? I saw a hole in the whole of the picture.
When he comes home late from his fight at the bar,

I hold a cold rag steady to his knuckles. I think I can love someone
who cares enough to bruise for me.

He touches his thumb to the corner of my mouth,
pulls back my lip to consider my teeth.

Last updated March 11, 2023