for the CDC
There are things we cannot say now.
We carry their husks like frozen puppies
in our mouths, like a fetus warmed
in the curve of my winter palms
huddled for safe passage, for easy transport.
Do not ask me to mean for you.
I walked to the river with the things I cannot say like
words foraged from a burning bush like
words lifted from disappearing scripture like
words plucked from the plumage of a shrieking peacock like
wordseeds pickpocketed from generational sweaters like
The river was not frozen–it never listens anyway
entitled by its own currency–so I walked
out onto the water. Invulnerable mascot,
the hem of my skirt, barely damp, rippled where I walked.
The river light refracted in many places at once–
find yourself missing like
the transgender mirror that shook loose reflection.
The river did not not welcome me.
I built an elaborate altar for the encyclopedia of unsayables.
The crushed dove’s feathers stuck
to the walls of my oral cavity.
My mouth is science-based, I sing.
My altar’s top is trout and snail.
My altar is evidence-based
and wobbles on the fast-moving current.
Do not ask me and the river does not.
Since graduating from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Rhiannon Dickerson lives and teaches in Kansas City, MO. Her work has appeared in LIT, Mid-American Review, Pleiades, and other journals.
Inspiration: The day after the word-ban was released, I woke up with the first line of this poem in my head. The rest came quickly.