Poem by Annie Hartley

I dare you to fall.

I dare you to fall, to tumble, to crash.

The night is dark; the stars turned to dust.

Long ago, the sun turned to ice,

Blue and black, with deep burgundy at the very core,

The nucleus, the last remaining fire.

The moon flies on battered wings.

Two feathers flutter on gray, cracked bones.

The silence screams, begging to be noticed, to be seen.

I swallowed the world in three large gulps,

And it slid down my gullet like homemade chocolate pudding.

The old turtle felt lost without the world on his back.

He swam desolately through the starless space,

Flippers rotating slowly until he too turned to dust from time and age.

I wanted to eat him too.

My grandmother used to make turtle soup

Out of the tears of an old male,

The blood of a baby,

And the supple shell of a fresh-grown female.

Sometimes colors glimmer in the darkness where there is no light.

The crow falls more swiftly than the dove.

I float alone in eternity,

My eyelids ripped off when I was still mortal

By a fox whose family I had slain unknowingly.

I drift, unable to close my eyes,

To hide from the emptiness that fills the sky.

Starry dragons cleave through frictionless air.

They spread their wings and glide,

No force required to keep them moving forward forever.

Perhaps that’s where the stars all went.

The dragons swelled their lungs to spark a flame,

But instead choked on billions of tiny, cold lights

Which stuck in the crevices between their scales

And the soft flesh of their bellies,

Perpetually glowing.

I have never seen a starry dragon.

Sometimes I wonder why I, too, haven’t turned to dust.

I watched eternity disintegrate, yet I remain,

Intact but for my eyelids.

My mother told my brother and me about people

Who had turned white from fright.

Toes to hair to eyes.

The absence of color.

Perhaps I am a ghost, like them.

In the town where I grew up,

A young woman’s ghost,

Dressed in Victorian finery,

Haunted the house upon the hill,

Weeping mascara tears,

A red lipstick smile painted on her porcelain face.

I cannot be a ghost because I have no home to haunt.

My baby sister crawled off one morning

While the mist still hung heavy around our home.

I see her shadow marching through space,

Four round dots of something darker than dark.

The ancient cultures told tales about souls that lost their way

Between one plane and the next,

Doomed to wander forever under a cursed sun.

I have no sun,

But I am still wandering.

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