Catie Rosemurgy

from First the Burning, Then the Witches

Gold River neck riddle:

What is red and singing on the inside, gray and moaning on the outside?
(The opera house)

What is green, damp, and stuck between the forest’s teeth?
(The doctor)

What drags on the floor and catches fire?
What reveals the blonde girl’s legs while destroying them?
(The afternoon sun)

What grows tall, blocks the sun, loses everything,
and still darkens the field? (The young soldier
looking for the mute boy who might have taken
all the goodness with him.)

What spreads out by simplifying further?
What lives by getting sicker?

What (smoke) was here?
What (government)?

What saves and ruins?
(The museum)

What blooms amongst the rocks?
(A ship)

What opens wide and explains why?
(A burning window)

What is ill-advised in the new world?
(What ends at the treeline.
What split like a lip into two less viable possibilities.)

What shimmers on our bodies when we are warm?
(Our historic burning) What lines both the inside of our coats
and the inside of our mouths?
(Our current burning)
What is the real museum?

What is wet and is yet a wick?
(The tongue, which becomes colorless over time.
Which flakes.)

What is the souvenir we bring home from the flood?
(Our hair)
On what bent and drinking animal are we the pattern?
(The land)
(The river)
(The pollen-dusted, busy space between the trees)

(The girl looks around as if she wants to cut things, but there are only trees.)

I have
my brother’s penknife
but don’t know
my name.

I’m not forgetful,
I just lose one thing every day.

The wondering
Sarah? Jane?
blends in with my hunger
and creates a general premise of girl/need
that suits the forest.

My ability to feel has hardened
into a little lump near my waist.
First thing in the morning,
I just trim it back.

I like
the musical way it feels to mark a row of trees
ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii
                                     ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii ii
Gash, gash,
jab, jab.


for my two eyes.
Like jewels,
they’re what I take with me.
I stuff them
into the dirty pocket of my looking.


for my double,
the experienced traveler.
She’s stick-haired.
She’s fat and blue.

Fairly mild at this time of year.

She’s also a long, gray, blank thing,
so I trust her completely.

She pretends she’s been knocked-down,
but she just loves
to drag in the dirt beside me as I run.

A woman, with a star in her throat and a fire in the cupboard:

When I was young, I hid under the porch with a star in my throat.
When I got a little older, my mother opened the cupboard to let the fire out.

I should’ve known the limestone cliffs meant a coming blankness.
We should’ve noticed the competition growing deadly
between the masts and the trees. The problem wasn’t the lateness of our parties
but what we used for wood to keep them lit.

What is it people say—take my arm
and walk with me for a moment along the shore?

My mother, bless her, is a speck of color in the flush of a great cheek.
I’ve come to ask you to consider praying for that giant child.

Remember when we began to forget the babies once we tossed them in the air?
First it was the completion of those simple gestures, but then entire sections of the story
went missing. In our lips we could feel the slight buzz of the edge
when the cut was made. Such a lovely day,
but how was it lovely exactly? How was it
that we came to live here? I believe

we were outside in the yard, maybe we heard the kettle boil,
and we set them down, that was how the stories got wet
and began to bleed together. I also believe we built the sides of the town too high,
and the events kept rolling back. I didn’t know
that the water was going to keep rising as well,
but if you have any say in the matter, while the boats go down,
I’d like to be on a ladder, peeking into a loft made narcotic with children,
a dead pool with rolling, living waves. If possible,
I’d like the water to douse the match that’s growing out of the bones of my hand.

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