Permit again a window. A house, a mouth, a room
to be human in. Let there be a vitrine

holding a beeswax hand that is your own. It is sleep
I mostly recollect, the warm reprise

of flesh, insistence
and dispersal, its gathering

you in. But no. I have beaten
the body back

(could there be an intercession)

have turned it from its hungers, have rinsed it
from the scene. So her face

as she turns from the window, half illumined,
half dark. And the scar she traces, slowly

(could there be an impression)

on his cheek. Outside, the sky assembles
into its fractured grid. Rainwater pools in their courtyard.

(could there be a lens)

From the train, a passing landscape

(could there be an edifice, a bridge)

(could there be a figure)

whited out with rain. That there was, for so long

no station. No language

(sotto voce)

before which I could speak. Let there be

a narrow margin, emergent
on the sand. These pitted

shadows, sunsplint
tufts of grass. A river, blurred in the distance

(their sheets worn out, translucent
from long use)

and the man I'll never see again

exiting the train. As the moments close around him.
As, in the empty railyard, the birds rehearse their flight.

Let us be, for a time
forgiven. Let us hold

what we must hold. So that the earth might right itself
through the dark of sleep, through all our sex and texts.




There were hyacinths warm as waffles, & starvation seemed just

like a dream, silvery and elegant
as the apple blossoms churning out their suds

in the small groves on the hillsides. Because the moon

was a lavender saltlick & because when I opened
my mouth, a girl-ghost flickered right

out of my throat. Then I walked through the streets
as a penitent, begging you for a word. Then I climbed the 100 basilica steps

on my knees. Then I lit 1000 votives
and wept 1,000,000,000 tears. I begged for a god

who could hear me. I annealed myself in prayer. Still, you pressed your hands
to my lips till I wasn't real. Outside there was mud & crocuses

sprang up like purple speakers from the loam. Deafening frog song pumped
from tiny, unseen frogs. There were little lame balloon men

afoot in every square, trolling
for dates in every city park. How they wheeled their tanks

past the fountains. How they twisted balloons into shapes. Rocketships and monkeys.
Skyscrapers and giraffes. Then the streets unfurled a renaissance of bikes.

You don't even know which questions.

You don't even know
which words.

I wanted your voice
to be in me. I wanted the dirt on your hands.

Because the grass was green as instinct & algae swarmed through the pond
like a diver's hair, like the Horseshoe Nebula.

Now, it's spring on the carnival rides. On the buildings, banners saying do, do, do.

Next time, we'll be strangers
but I swear, I'll know who you are. I promise

I'll be the three-headed dog, all slobber, all rolling tongue. I promise
I'll be the boatman. Look: I can swim the length of the pool in a single breath.

When I fell asleep on a park bench, sunlight filled my veins.
Now I am "illumined." My skin is a radiant isotope.

My heart is a sea wasp, pulsing under glass.
In the dream, my teeth were icons.

In the dream, my teeth dropped out of my mouth like stars.



Anne Shaw is the author of Undertow, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize, and Shatter and Thrust, forthcoming from Persea Books. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Review, Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, Drunken Boat, and New American Writing. Her extended experimental poetry project can be found on Twitter at She is currently a student of the visual arts at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.