by Jessamyn Birrer

What if every song is two songs?
The song of the child born for sin and death,
and the song of the woman who has taken
on the peculiar terrors of love
and found herself captive. What music demands
of our voices: that we find the outer
borders of their registers and sing true.

My contralto, the deep growls of its fry,
its uncertain, climbing plaints,
disappears wherever it cannot reach.
The failure of the body
to match the heart’s straining.

So ran the god and girl, Apollo for the hunt
and she to renounce the hungry pull
of muscle and blood, his breath
beating on her shoulders. Oh, to be wanted,
and to never be wanted–to beg
for the ground to open up and swallow you
only to find your breasts closing over with bark,
hips numbing, feet seeking anchor
in the clay and holding.

Music, that strange bird that comes
to nest in the knot of the sex, stirs
the glabrous leaves there.

How to repent of the fear of love,
how to regret transformation?
It is like the longing I have to be two
of everything–to be mine or yours,
and to be no one’s. To be lover and inflorescence,
bud and beloved. To find the song to pursue you
even as the roots clamber over my ribcage,
shoots open my throat and chase the light.

To root the song in the body. The body
pitched high and made low. Each note
wrapping its legs first around the idea of love,
then around the heavy tree itself.


You’ve lost a bet with that girl who lives in B7, and so here you are. Which line will you tattoo across your skin?

Death is not a pity, but a form of pity.
I am free.