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Brittany Cavallaro



Before thought,

unthought. Before silence,


a jackdaw. Where were we last?

In the morning the mouths of animals.


The stripped sky at dawn.

Before the telephone,


wings. Before ghosts, kindling.

Your expiring mouth.


Tonight the trees move

as if conveyed. The birds burrow,


burrow. The years grow lidded eyes.

Before your questioning,


knowledge. By knowledge

I mean familiarity. By questioning


I mean you dug for my bones.





We finally achieve moiety in the Budapest

hotel: the cut duvet splits the bed into twins,


the word into a question –  do, they. At lunch

you tell me the Magyar language uses only


postpositions, that clarification comes only

at the end. Your hands diagram my few


stumbling phrases, your one finger ringed

like a plane refusing to land. You only hail

those brown cabs that go expensively

nowhere. I only speak when spoken to


in English. Our mouths themselves

are mondegreens: what we’d want to hear


lost in desire’s dumb refrain. When

you whisper only, you whisper oh, lie


because some letters never arrive. I call

your wife and say words to the machine. I call


myself any name but my own. My foreign mother,

inarticulate through Lucky Strikes, coughed


an haitch before every front-voweled English word.

We’re all old-fashioned here – our hands still murmur and      and       and

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