Pre-dawn is set in a still sky
The birds are hushed. It’s hot, and I’ve cast off the blankets.
I wake thinking of you. I want you to trace words on my body, to read your secrets through my
skin. You know exactly where to breathe on the side of my neck to convince me I’m alive.
Even when I’m lying still I’m in motion. The neuron storm, the blood rushing to my ears pauses
at my pulse points, the thrum of a steel guitar sounding, I tremble before falling into the half-
I’m in a maze trying to find someone. I can’t stop to touch lilies, watch golden waters flowing up
or violinists falling slowly from the ceiling, music as bright star. I am bound to the exit stone, I
have to search in this chasm without being taken in, without opening my mouth.
Even asleep I’m afraid.
I ask you to make me a mix tape. When you present it, you’ve tied it to a sparrow’s ankle, gifted
it in a silver cage. I want your songs, but if I open the cage, the bird will fly away.
I get up, lift the sill, sit naked in the window-well. Nobody is stirring, but there are lights in
scattered windows. I cast the shadows off and brush my hair. This day will be beautiful if I let it.
Jen Stein is a writer, artist, editor, and educator in Fairfax, Virginia. Her art and writing are informed by her experiences with advocacy and activism surrounding the politics of the body, disability, and mental health. She has published and upcoming work with Anti-Heroin Chic, Porkbelly Press, Whale Road Review, Menacing Hedge, West Trestle Review, Nonbinary Review, and Stirring, and has been assistant editor at Rogue Agent for seven years. You can find her on Instagram @jensteinpoetry, and on Twitter @dexlira.