by Sonya Taaffe

Do not come back, your face a moiré of shadows
from flurry-winged gulls, your fingers clutching my ankles
with last week's news and tumbling chip wrappers,
telling me in the conversations of strangers
here you are still, still awaiting me.
Do not wake me rapping the windows
with wayward crows, tousle my hair
with a passing train, rearrange graffiti
like milk bottles on my doorstep.
I loved this city before you stole its skin,
signed every window with the wild scrawl of your pride.
Do not come here, pretending to centuries
before we missed buses, built bookshelves, dyed our hair.
This place's heart is stronger than your breaking.
These streets know you are not their only dead.

Sonya Taaffe's short stories and poems have appeared in such venues as Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction, The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, Here, We Cross: A Collection of Queer and Genderfluid Poetry from Stone Telling, People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy, Last Drink Bird Head, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, and The Best of Not One of Us. Her work can be found in the collections Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books) and A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press). She is currently on the editorial staff of Strange Horizons; she holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object.

Sonya says, "What poem would I choose to lull an enemy into sleep? Maybe the song Penelope sang as she wove for the eavesdropping suitors; it sounds like a love song of the islands, all branches and apples and stars and soldiers, but the refrain keeps coming back to something that sounds like fire—and as I burned, so you. Well, that means passion when a woman says it, doesn't it? And each night the song works backward: branches fall, apples wither, stars gutter and soldiers die, but either way the suitors end in fire, ashes like a twenty years' grieving heart. (This is not in the Odyssey. But the Catalogue of Ships is not ominous enough, and—pace Thomas Browne—we know perfectly well what songs the Sirens sang.)"

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