Paige Lewis




X steadies my balance on the outer wall of the zoo.

He says that even in their sleep, captive giraffes know

they’re captive—they don’t make that midnight hum

in the wild. He wants to connect these stemmy-necked

leopards to my crooning, but it’s only noon. X reaches

up, pokes his finger through the sun, and spirals it into


an apple’s dizzy peel. Now red. Now waxy. He

ribbons it through his lips. See, he says. His singed

mouth. We’ve grown so big. It’s time we got out of here.

I don’t want out, but I do grow cold, and the cold

comes strong—and the dark. The streetlights

are stubborn here—they decide when to light,


it will not be decided for them. The humming

swells so loud I can only focus on everything X is not.

He is not me from the future—his pockets aren’t

filled with space dust. He is not God—he still needs

my help unsnagging his hair from jacket zippers.

Where are we going? X rips a hole into the side


of the wall. He squeezes my hand, leading me

in through the hollow and out beside a mountain,

which has only us to confide in, I am very thin and

not fit to hold you. We climb it anyway. The mountain

teeters and falls back, flattening the town below it. X

calls it An Exceptional Wreck. He feeds flint to a hawk


and sends it sparking over the fields. I don’t

understand his bigness, or his dreamy definition

of guilt, and I don’t argue. I used up my toothiness

years ago—rendered myself kind. And besides, he’s

teaching me confinement. How to feel the fences.

When X pulls me toward the fire, he pulls me by my wrist.



IMG_7827Paige Lewis is the author of the chapbook Reasons to Wake You (Tupelo Press, 2018). Their poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere.

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