My History As

Emily Skaja

In my history, I was bones eating paper
                                         or I was paper eating bones. Semantics.

I lived in a narrow house;
                                   I lived with a man who said

You fucked up your own life, who said
                                   I could never love someone so heavy.

The place was brick on brick
                                   with iron grates covering the windows—

rowhouse cage, South Philly. I was learning
                                   how some of us are made to be carrion birds,

& some of us are made to be circled.
                                   Somewhere in this education

I stopped eating. Held up my hands
                                   to see if my bones would glow in the dark.

My boat name could have been
                                   HMS Floating, Though Barely.

Meanwhile I had a passion for cartography.
                                         Not leaving, just coloring the maps.

I covered all the walls with white paint, whiter paint, spiraling out— a weather
                                    system curling over water.

I always drew the compass rose flat.
                                    I was metal-blue, I was running my mouth

like a bathtub tap. A bone picked clean of particulates.
                                            Everything has some particular science.

By its nature, a vulture can't
                                            be a common field crow, for instance.

Look at the wings, look at that hard
                                    mouth, look at the feet.

When I tell my history, I can't leave out
                                    how I hit that man in the jaw,

how I wasn't good at mercy,
                                    how eating nothing but white pills & white air

made me unchartable—
                                    I can't skip to the end just to say

well it was fragile & I smashed it
                                   & everything's over, well now I know things

that make me unlikely.
                                        What am I supposed to say: I'm free?

I learned to counter like a torn edge
                                            frayed from the damp. That's how I left it.

Leaving the river, leaving
                                            wet tracks arrowed in the brush.