As A Fire Blazes in The Notre-Dame Cathedral

OTTAVIA PALUCH

Men here go hunting in the woods, skin
all the soft things, and in thunderstorm blackouts 
you hear their guns in the trees. Every breath

is a breath longer than you are owed. Because 
you are alone, and you are young,
because you live in a country that prefers you

dead. They hang the open mouths of murdered animals 
in their living rooms, as if to say we kill things
all the time
, to say nothing is real until it has hurt

another. You watch a vulture alight on your porch 
and do not shoo it away until it has killed
a pigeon. Someone keys your car-- a slur, not even

yours-- close your eyes, mother your rage.
When you cannot find your ancestors, turn the lights off 
and conjure them. Even when the men name you

theirs, when they make you kneel, when they take 
your past, still, still, you practice your future. Psalm 
every kind thing ever said. When they ask you

how you survived, you will list all the things 
that made you unlikely, and you’ll breathe as if 
it is over, and you will remember everything.

Marionette Girl Replies

Being me, I tear up the dress:
I tell my little sister every love story is

 


a moth striving toward light, 
dead mid-spark. I paint her

 


in another girl’s skin.
The truth is my first love was

godless. In this story girls whisper 
on the playground, float facedown

 


in the river. I don’t want to fall in love 
because when you say you are in love

 


I change my name on the weekends, sneak out 
to see the lights swallow the city,

 


allowing myself to be claimed. 
My sister calls me

 


young. The girls of the city
bury each other

 


by the river. We paint ourselves 
wing-hued, wild-eyed,

 


we light candles on fire escapes, 
we masterless, we ungodded,


 

an apocalypse story:

 I let her retell my desire into

a butterfly stranded on the sidewalk, 

a wasp pincers-deep

 

in silhouette. In this story I play Juliet

 and wear flowers fistfuls, as if peony were

 

deadly beautiful. I don’t want to fall in love 

because I do not want to be claimed

it is always too late. I tell her that love, 

like birthing, is meeting your conqueror.

 

I imagine picking a country, 

hiding soil in the crooks of my elbows,

 

and I consider shedding my heritage

 like a pair of moth wings.

singing, we kill butterflies just to see 

them up close. We refuse to be claimed

 

willing not to be owned 

but to be known,

all of us alive, all of us in love,

in love with each other.

OTTAVIA PALUCH is a disabled high school student who lives in Ontario, Canada. A Gigantic Sequins Teen Sequin in 2018, her work is published or forthcoming in Four Way Review, Kissing Dynamite, Room Magazine, Alexandria Quarterly, and Ghost City Review, among other places. Paluch has studied poetry under Jessica Lynn Suchon during the 2019 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, as well as under Matt Mitchell during Flypaper Lit’s 2020 workshop on poetic forms.

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