Lise Latreille, No Tenant (photograph)

She had the sun-split look
of one whom the god has loved, however briefly

& she was weeping & speechless
when we pulled her from the car. No longer fit
for life in town. 

We carried her to the swamp bed
& laid her by the fire. Her hair smelled then
of lemongrass & dishwater. 

We used slivered sedge for kindling
& sliced the shorebird down its spine. 

We bled the bird into the marsh
& when the water did not hiss & blacken
we knew the girl would do. 

We pulled the dark meat from the ribs
& fed it to the sleeping girl. 

When the girl was full & cradled
we let the flames die down & held her
to the fire’s former heart

& seared her tongue against the rocks to bridle it. 
A terrible & unhinged shrieking then. After

she opened her throat & sang.


Nancy Reddy