Reba Fay


"If one saves a butterfly, has one saved the world?"
-David Shapiro

No: but maybe if I take a fluted decal of swan shit from
bank A in my mouth like an oyster I’ll wed for life.
I’m not interested in saving nothing. I’ll keep my bellybutton,
my tits disinterested & dribbling their froth, my third-eye
pumping iron like a dude between shoulderblades
one and two. I am a mystic with a living cleave that disappears
when I’m face-forward on the bedsheets, so the moaning
you might hear is a kind of closing. Like, bye. I’m looking
for the boyfriend who might pick all the motes of ice
from the tattoos I haven’t gotten, but want, or once did.
In the early drafts of this poem I wrote “he who might plumb
the depths of my ego burn, the singed layers like cheesecloth,
he who might sing to me when my penis envy’s the cradle
rocking next to the desk I keep my pens, a cup of OJ,
a defibrillator for a paperweight,” but crossed the whole thing
out because my story’s not like that. I was born.
I lived a little. I gained weight, as babies do. I am an umbilical
cord searching for the jeweler who might save me, who might
slide a 12-karat down this body that’s all finger, no blade.
It’s totally weird thinking about how I’ll never see you again
I told Dylan and he said I’m like St. Augustine, I’ll reappear.
Last night I saw the apparition: welt in a hunk of mist.
So I fanned it with my wrists, with my stack of poems, until
it melted, broiled my tongue in the sop, called my pain
a midnight snack, felt the bloat in the morning with the alarm
clock’s blare. An uprising so routine and mechanical I’ve begun
to confuse it with the MIDI blam-blam of texts from my mother,
who says You are using your body for art and its fucked up.
What else have I to give? I can’t make crab cakes. My lyre’s
cracked, my lute’s a toothbrush. After two hours crouched
over the bowl, pawing at your throat’s racked lattice like
you’re riffing Stairway to Heaven, blind girl slinging maw-as-guitar,
the frets so complicated, so hidden, or as though practicing
all the old foreplay (who here remembers the shocker?
who remembers how much it hurt the first time?), well, you start
searching for replacement theories: maybe I’m railing too
loudly. Maybe I should engineer chandeliers. Maybe I’ll let
the good ol’ boy in the leather jacket tear my body in two
at the Motel 8. Maybe I’ll watch Animal Planet while he rocks
into me, a slug mounting a motorcycle, his salt and dander
fresh & palpable. My epiphanies are holsters and I’m done
with the fantastic. They want my anger but I’m just looking
for the butterknife that might unfurl this hot dung. Ask me
about my daubed wings. Like a masterpiece, they’re soft close-up.

Reba Fay is a poet & composer from Washington D.C. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where she won the 2014 Wagenheim Literary Award. She performs her poetry + music under the moniker Swan Meat and is currently an MFA candidate in Sound at SAIC. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Gauss PDF, Two Serious Ladies, GlitterMob, Tagvverk, & other publications. Her bff is Jamie Morgan.
Mark Cugini