My chest catches tight like a robin’s
breast. We all shrink down
to a point of unnatural redness
sooner or later—one
form of bodily betrayal
or another. The pain is a color
correction for an underlying blue,
cold and cadaverous, that we all
bear from birth. That first
breath of new-dredged lungs
is so small, yet how
could all the atmosphere be enough
for one who will wonder at the stars
and then judge their movements?

I hear my own voice
in the still, small point
that would be fire if any
oxygen remained. The lungs
heave, and I feel my face
turning blue anyway. The shoulders
curve in, as though
they could focus a ray of light
from the window into a spark,
sustain a fusion reaction
under a coil of fingers
and separating ribs. They tell me
I’d glow with the beauty of ten thousand
suns. We all know
what I’d become.

                                  I tire,
let the light diffuse
across my eyelids, spread
the redness that will not flow
to the edges of my vision. The centre
will not hold. Perhaps
there is no centre, only
a mouthful of fig and a spray
of colorblind hearts at the tips
of every hair, drunk
on sparks. The air is thick
with birdsong, and I stuff my empty
chest full of notes
like straw at the heart of a scarecrow.
I no longer hear the wind
or the earth or
the fire.

               Someone will tell me
I’m dying. I’ll tell them there is
no other kind of life.


Reyzl Grace (הי / she) is a transfeminine Ashkenazi writer, translator, and librarian working in both English and Yiddish. A love of delicately illustrated flowers unites her current activities teaching Victorian literature and copy editing Cordella Magazine. More of her work can be found at her website,, or by following her on Twitter @reyzlgrace.

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