I. My boatman’s hands are Like the silver branches. They tremble in the witchlight And shiver on my skin. II. It was my bed that hid The door, and all those years I fretted about monsters, falling Into slime and the cobwebs’ catch. All those years I knew there was Something besides shoes. III. My boatman’s eyes are gold as leaves On goldroot trees, lit Without a moon in the obsidian sky. “Follow.” IV. It should have been my bed. I’m never afraid of the dark, Cold stone, strangers, water. And Under my bed is neat. I even keep The ribbons of my slippers rolled And tucked into my slipper toes, Safe from the teeth of mice. V. On the first step my skin Woke to the slip and whisper of Silk against my legs. On the second step my skin Ruffled and danced With petticoats I’d never worn. VI. When the bed stood back To open up a country That’s ours alone, without alliances or hours, My breath stood in my body, Still for the enchanter’s air Breathing for me. VII. My ribbons come untied No matter How I cross and bow the silk. My hair unbraids, combed down Combed down by silver Fingers out of night as I run to the lake. VIII. He watched my sisters go to all the other Boats and never Looked at me. The others’ poles slide In the lake and In without ripples. My Boatman stabs the water— Rings slap Back to shore. IX. The music rises from the ground Through leather slipper soles, Slipper satin, stocking silk, and skin, To lend my legs the dance. And I keep to my toes. X. Someone will know. A maid Will find the seam in the floor, Though we can’t. My dress Will catch a diamond twig, Or one of us grow careless Humming or dancing in daylight, then The spell will dissolve and We’ll be common as Twelve daughters in an heirless kingdom. XI. My boatman’s grey, The others shine. His hands curl on me Faster than the music runs. His eyes are falcon yellow. His lips are red as fruit. XII. Each night the dance contains more steps, More turns. Each night My boatman’s arm tightens on my waist. Each night I feel the floor whirr, My slippers thin, My gown flies farther as I turn. I want a man who speaks.
Devon Miller-Duggan has published in Rattle, Kestrel, and Gargoyle and won a few more or less respectable awards. She teaches creative writing at The University of Delaware. Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008) is her first book. Neither Prayer, Nor Bird, a chapbook, is due out in fall 2013 from Finishing Line Press.
“Were I to be invisible, I suspect I’d behave rather badly, spending all my time sabotaging planet-damaging corporations and writing poems I love on walls and sidewalks everywhere. If I could make anything visible, I’d probably go for motives.”
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