Saturday Apr 21

Paniccia Poetry Clare Paniccia was born and raised in upstate New York and is currently a PhD student in poetry at Oklahoma State University. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from Superstition Review, Radar Poetry, Puerto del Sol, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere.
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Breakup in Three Scenes


Scene 1

At once, when willingness is enough to tear at the rim
of memory’s peeled corner, I witness my body standing up

in a field of snow. By the tree line there is a younger self’s
silhouette bent under a man’s broad shoulder, as if a hand

cupped beneath its other—a smallness clutched into the take
of a hawk’s edged talon. I am voiceless in this moment as I watch

myself be tracked toward some narrow future. There is no way
to tell where each torso begins or ends, so fully does he blanket

her, her breath pulsing outward as haze to puncture stillness
in its leaving. In the man’s tight fist burn feathers from the neck

of a dove and I imagine that I am moving near the girl whose face
resembles my face, whose body is as a figure contorted in

and of itself, to touch the apple of her cheek and bait back
its glow. In reclamation’s calm air I’m pulling her arms

into my vacant side, pushing past our vision of beast to see
how he and I once stood on opposite sides of the same bed,

unmoving. I feel my hands are reaching down into the history
of us with a sharp blade’s remedy, time’s black cord wrought

and cleaved. The girl places her weight into both my palms
and I am gripped by an image of two preybirds tearing

at the heartmeat of a lesser form, their beaks raking skin into hot
fury—the girl’s hair tangled between the caustic rage of a past

and future demon. The bird of her mouth swiftly silenced.

Scene 2

During the evening, I am visited by the ghost of a hurt dove.
In its beak there is a single note of warning. Without consequence,

it asks me if I have emptied the basin that lies beneath my rib’s
curved angle—a bell of a once-red apex, where in dream a man

had sat with both eyes open. This is the point where I clutch inward
and notice how a year has erased itself from the dip of my breast—

the space where I might still feel the broad palm of him pressing
into me a fervor of wanting. Each night I wonder at what moment

he looked into a mirror to notice the vacancy under his ear—the void
in his shoulder’s hollow. How, miles away, I might still grasp toward

the breath that fogs into the corner of a glass. I turn to the dove
and say no—I have not abandoned the image of his body, the man’s

eyes as two dark planets in orbit around my torso’ s chamber.
If I could reach down inside myself I would pull out a single

strand from the heart’s lining to burn against the dark and fevered
silence. A token offered for the swift cleaning of the mind’s slate.

I press a finger into the pulse of my carotid. The dove curls beneath
my chin the softness of its own neck, broken.

Scene 3

When I struggle to fit into the crux of another’s angle I feel
as though I am burning a candle from both ends. How,

in the corner of my mind there remains some soft singing:
a beat of wing that calls back toward the slow summer I spent

piecing apart my body for another’s grim taking. How, still,
I know he is sitting in the living room counting the ridges

of my spine, the fog of them present in that house’s cold seam.
His afterimage rests so plainly behind each eyelid I could

reach up and brush his side while wiping away rheum or feather,
saline or dust—feel him when I sink low into someone else’s

belly and become weighted by an echo of his hand’ s placement,
imagine a ghost’s fingers gripping onto the curve of my thigh,

its mouth close to my mouth, recalling. Would I breathe a burned
feather’s ash to forget its origin—strip its down, its calamus

to see where it had once bored into a soft and simple thing?
In my side I know the hot sting of a phantom moment: an early

morning spent coupled, where I had leaned over to the window’s
glass and whispered avoid this harm, my hands grasping for anything

that might have entered me. I know what happens when
the wounded are circled and torn. I’ve seen them split

a heart free of its chamber, scavenge the rib of its tired arc,
the vultures ruthless in their plunging to the sweetest vein.

Where even if I could shed myself and walk away there would always
be some drop of blood beating: the point where he might yet

shudder into waking beneath my breast, his mouth’ s imprint hidden
yet luminous.