The Unknown City by Erica Wright


for Lucie Brock-Broido

We invent a city for loss, keep childhoods there,
          love letters and pennies, the last time we slipped

our feet into the leech-filled waters of a creek,
          marveled at hunger, then at weightlessness.

We forgot the names for stars and stored them:
          pulsar, wolf-rayet, and magnetar.

We think airships go on forever.
          We think the sky’s got a harbor.

The trick is knowing to separate
          the manmade clouds from the cumulus

of my heart. Did I say heart? Did I say mine?
          Mostly dreams are long cons, but this one has legs.

There’s a warehouse in our new capitol
          just for hairpins, their copper gleam too bright

for the streets outside. And the bricks shine
          of their own accord, each one a beacon

on nights when others hide from the wind.
          Come, wind.

Nestle your length next to mine,
          let me feel you shake my teeth.

Still, the amber slips into a drain.
          Still, the tabby vanishes around a corner,

and around the corner, a tower, and inside the tower,
          there’s nobody. Our girl as nowhere as she can be.

Which is to say, not even our dreams—
          let alone the world—can hold such promise for long.


Erica Wright
is the author of the poetry collections All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at Guernica Magazine as well as a former editorial board member of Alice James Books. Her latest novel is The Blue Kingfisher (Polis, 2018).