Daphne Gottlieb

( San Francisco, California )

from BFR, Winter 2002


maps and legends
(for Miriam)

Does it hurt? Of course it hurts.

Knowing I am going away past the sharp edge of the world, she
knows we need magic, we need magic stronger than words, since
just words cannot save us.  I follow her to the place where the
machines hum and draw blood since  we need strong magic, need
to rip the skin, let blood, and change the body for life, so
it knows.

This is where the journey begins.  We follow royalty there, we
follow gangs there, we follow brides-to-be there, we follow
prisoners there, we follow thieves and sailors there.  We walk
through the open door and look for what we need.

This is where the journey begins.  I leave now, or I will not
be gone for months, or I will never leave.  Does it hurt? Of
course it hurts.  Home is where the heart is or home is where
the body is.  I travel light.  I never let go of her hand, home.
She is my heart.

We walk through the open door and look for what we need.  Beyond
the edge of the world, there are dragons.  Their pictures are on
the wall, like WANTED posters.  WANTED: what we need.  I am already
more woman than girl, so there is no need to slit open my chin,
mark the equator.  No need for love charms, no pierced hearts, no
roses.  No stars, one for each year behind bars, no barbed wire
for an imprisoned life.  Not the pig and the rooster, to keep me
from drowning, nor the legend H-O-L-D-F-A-S-T — there will be
no ropes where I go.

Serious magic: when you bride the machine, you can never go back, 
even after death: This is where the body was found, before the
edge, before the dragons.  This is how they know the body: White
female, 5'11", 160  pounds.  Identifying marks:  Even after days
in the water, death knows you by your magic: the water swelling
the body, the body more water than blood or bone, and still the
body speaks after death, says: Blood, North, South, Sailor, Thief,
King, Queen, Ace.  The Spade brings luck, as does the dice.  But
we need more than luck.  Protection is more than luck.  There are
dragons past the edge.   I never let go of her hand.

Birds know magic like they know home.  Their hearts beat too fast
for land and carry them into the air, beat, beat, a signal on a
drum or a trumpet, a knocking or strong pulsation, beat, my heart,
her, beat a tattoo into my ribs.  My heart is in my mouth.  I
swallow.  Birds know magic like they know home, where the swallows
return every year without fail, and begin rebuilding.  The machine
builds its bride, rips into the skin.  You can never go back.

We tell the man:  swallows, we need swallows.  He nods.  He knows.
He crosses me over the equator, the line between, over the edge,
there are dragons out there.  He nods and says, “where?”

Place is everything.  Either you are home, or you are not.  Either
you are on one side of the equator, or the other.  Either you are
safe, or.  She speaks.  “On her hands.  Protect her hands, so that
nothing falls through them.”  He nods.  “On her heart.  Protect
her heart, so nothing can hurt there.”  He nods again, slowly, the
machine purrs harder, waiting.  “On her throat, so nothing can stop
her voice when she needs it, on her legs, so nothing can keep her
from running, on her head, so—”

—so she sings the song of the machine and the machine sings my blood 
and swallows, my hands, my heart, the swallows will bring me home
when it is time to rebuild; place is everything, you can never go
back.  There are dragons out there.

We walk through the open door.  Out on the edge, this is where the
body was found, where the journey begins:  I am sailor, thief, queen.
I am home.  I am only girl in the spaces between powerful magic, what
swallows bring in their mouths to nest with.  Their hearts beat too
fast to keep them on the earth, does it hurt? Her heart beats a tattoo
into my ribs, blood, of course it hurts, and every year, WANTED, the
swallows  return home.  H-O-L-D-F-A-S-T:  On this journey, I never
let go of her hand.

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