Learn to Tell Time!

Runner Up: 2023 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest


To navigate the tenacity of the dark

do I wave an ochre pistil?


Smuggle some fertile beauty

recklessly into my terror?


When through a marrow-streaked window

a wren digs her grave in the breast of another wren


what wound do I alleviate?

Who do I elevate?


What crown do I forego?

An astonishment


of ordinary animal.

Every animal


a letter

to every other animal.



time watches from the doorframe time removes her rings one by one before sliding between satin sheets time a mosaic of discarded catbones and splinters the body has absorbed time with her breast out forehead on the cold counter shudders haloes into our chest cavities: an astronomy



Consider the simultaneous:

inheritance a cluster


of stunned ghosts



from vow to vow.

Confused detectives.


Wet edamame pinched out

from skin pockets


clutching survivors

how rubble clenches


the neckskin

of collateral damage



and bewildered at the breach.



Consider the simultaneous:

giddy infant


farting in her father’s arms,

laughter’s unruly persuasion.


And behind a gas station the knuckle

bone of an adolescent girl


rots till it sprouts milk



No slight surge of moths no cartoon lunchbox

no breeze.


There is no leaving

the body.



Animal what crown?

Animal what red?


What hand

where even conquest


in its wreath

spills onto its pink back?



The ebony mountain is a heart.

The bird, propelled, a heart.

We measure the heart with a fist.

Astonished I studied my fist

eight years old

awed by the legibility

of my secrets.

Shabnam Piryaei is a poet, filmmaker and artist. She is the founder and curator of the online art and interview journal MUSEUM. You can read more about her work at https://shabnampiryaei.com/.