99: Philadelphia

99: Philadelphia

99: Philadelphia

Philadelphia
by Emily Skaja

⏤city of hot pavement
addressed by hot pavement,
boiling puddles studded
with floating syringes, paper kites.
A bridge swung over the water
with direction, like a fist.
All the time he was trying to show me
how he was a stuck door
with an eye-hole punched through
where I saw only
gashes of light.
Brute. He locked me out.
I walked 3rd Street
all the way north.
The day’s interminable heat.
Sweat tore up my thighs.
Cherry trees, I remember,
were blooming
shamefully.
It was a house I was always
walking back to.
I wasn’t delicate.
The door was blue.
So it was
that the palm of my hand
held a red bruise
shaped like a bird.
A lit crow. Flamed.
How sharp it is
to be wrong-fledged.
To be rope ravel
winging out
of syncopation.
Tried trying.
Just once I wanted
to hit & hold the person
who could hit & hold
me down.
I wanted the bruise
& the voice that was sorry.
Terror to give up control⏤
terror to name it.
There was a bottle.
There was a bottleneck exit.

“Philadelphia,” from Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.