Dear R.,

Two years ago, a flood. My country cried, and bodies of water separated us. Do you remember that painting? A storm-gift, you said. It stands by my wall, reminding me of how little the world is. And how large, still.

What I would give to learn how to swim, just to be beside you.


The Blood of the Fish
Erica Miriam Fabri

                for Gustav Klimt

The painter is beautiful because he can see
the sway of a woman in a water snake. He names
a painting Hope and means with child. To him,
Eve is not the bedmate of a serpent, she is a soft,
china-colored body for Adam to rest on. What is
Voluptuousness? A pot-belly. Excess? A river
of red hair. Poetry is a girl swimming in a white dress.
Love is a gypsy. Sleep is a witch. The most beautiful
girl in Vienna gave him her first kiss. She went to him
to find out what beauty was. And so, he covered her
in a blanket of carnations. Every woman he painted
had daisies sewn into their curls. What exactly does
a kiss do to a girl? It makes her face fold over,
and her toes turn like scallops in the grass.

I’ve been turning and turning and turning all my life, looking for this poem.

Dialect of a Skirt
Erica Miriam Fabri

The young girl wanted a new voice. After all, people got
new things every day. A new hip, a new nose, a new set
of suspenders. She adored the consonants that landed
like wooden shoes. She loved the type of L-sounds
that made a mouth drool from the back of the tongue
to the front. She practiced her new voice into seashells,
tin cans, caves. She gave her first performance quietly,
into the ear of her sleeping dog. She could tell by his snorting
that his dreams were of fat tree trunks and black, truffle-filled
soil. Later, she drove to the local gas station and used her new
voice to ask for a pack of cigarettes. She wasn’t wearing a bra,
but the attendant didn’t notice. He was too busy listening
to the way sound seemed to drip out of her mouth
as she said the word, Camel.