I don’t care how haunted this house is

I constellate / our shadows on the ceiling.

Your voice is the cause of light. A flick
of your tongue and I pull back the curtains.
If there were no eyes, there would be no light.

Outside the bay windows, a kaleidoscope
of butterflies boils through morning fog.
By afternoon they are revealed to be roaches.

How can a woman mistake a creature of filth
for a monarch that roves the globe for spring?
I no longer bother with such questions.

After you leave for work, I walk over soundless
footprints that appear in the house. They go
around unnamed by me—these prairie ghosts,

attic dwellers. A time, I even saw a handprint.
Each night you return with a bouquet
of fingers wrapped in newspaper

from dates that correspond to our
anniversaries. Is this your idea of fidelity?
Chewed yourself to skull, bloom, algae, cock,

to the heart of black where any shock of colour
is a threat. So many nights I want to tattoo your skin
but I know that pain peels everyone’s

summer tan off. You tell me you sleep
with one eye open. I constellate
our shadows on the ceiling.

An atlas bound with human-skin pages fans
me to bed. Hexed by insomnia I once read
how our muscles are paralyzed

while sleeping so we do not act out our dreams.
Somnambulists everywhere yawn
at such fake news.

Midnight, I am a stray cat sobbing
into a moon of milk in a clay pot. Everything
that breathes is waiting. I should be

as still as Atlas. But I lick the earth
until it dissolves into waterfall.
In baby doses, even hell

is a fireplace. The things we do
to forget our desires become prosthesis
to our desires. See, lust remains. The end

of the world will never end. I pickpocket
prayers for such moments, earring them
like a cow’s carcass on a hook for some manchild

God. I care so much about looking
like I don’t care. Where are you now—
are you now? You who are

a man of few words emerge
a hawk amid clouds
pluck the petal

of my body from the dirt
blow into my ears milkweed
bitter spring bee wings and

out goes all light
your voice my eyes
if there was

to see here no one
would be here.

SHANNAN MANN is an Indian-Canadian writer, mother, and University of Toronto student. She has been awarded or placed for the Palette Love and Eros Prize, Foster Poetry Prize, Peatsmoke Summer Contest, Rattle Poetry Prize, Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and Frontier Award for New Poets. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Literary Review of Canada, Poet Lore, Gulf Coast, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. You can find her at https://linktr.ee/shannanmania

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