Anne Shaw


The pink troll of our decade snickers from under its bridge
as the country goes crazy for jesus and the grey men
in the alley start to stink. I am humming under my breath in the key of doubt
as you pray to the god of washrooms, make us clean.
Each day’s bitter ribbon and its calculus of light. I sing o bastard of my heart
be still.
Your god is the god of mirrors, and the house a paper wasp builds
is paper. There are broken slats in every tiny thing. The pupa
and its carapace. The celery salt, the stalk. The way my birchy skin
peels off. Your hennaed hand. Your hand. How grief runs
through me like a pack of eels. Silver and colloidal,
the tides have seen us coming and turn back.
Like them, our work is breakage. To plunder to from fro. Inside us
something pliant, soiled. Bearing the dent of thumbs.

Anne Shaw
“Hymn” is from Undertow (Persea Books, 2007). It first appeared in Gulf Coast, and also appeared on Verse Daily.