Stone Telling

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In Memory of Dreamt Clockwork

by Na'amen Tilahun

There are traces of steel in her bones,
gears that twist shoulders and hips,
steam-powered pistons move her mouth and fists
in patterns of vapor that braid billions of eyes.
She holds the pallor close, attached
with thick, red, twine
suturing flesh to the cold machinery,
fibers fraying under the oils of my hands.
I touch places of joining, cut myself
on calluses and laser-edged metal.

There are grains of iron on her skin,
granules curl and flow through the crevices
of her bent waist. A river of stolen minerals
flavor her places of interest, turn her taste
mottled and wild. Eager beneath fingers
desperate to furrow flesh and mechanics.
Mouths swallow her cries, her ecstatic pain
transformed to prayer, intercepted
from a route to nothing, before and after. Who do we
pray to when we are already dead and
have never believed in God?

There is heat in the dips of her blood
places of contact that burn and spark
with all the energy once held in onyx
eyes and earth-caked grip.

I manage those little fires until
black skin drifts down, negative snow for
the love of you. Sticking out a clockwork tongue
you catch me on the abused gold-geared
muscle. I chase the flush across
your surface, follow the map of new birth that explodes
across places and feelings we thought faded and barren,
from hills of scalp to broken plain of shoulders,
with burnt stump wrists and blackened lips.

Na'amen Tilahun is a writer/bookseller/barista in the Bay Area. He received his M.F.A. in English Literature and Fiction from Mills College. His fiction has appeared in Collective Fallout, his poetry in So Speak Up and is forthcoming in Faggot Dinosaur and his non-fiction in Fantasy Magazine, Feminist SF - The Blog!, The Angry Black Woman and The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2.

Read Na'amen's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!