Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Fingerprints’ and other poems by Alexandra Dreyzin

By: Alexandra Dreyzin


They appeared, first innocuous, disrupting
the dust on my nightstand, a few scattered over a rocking chair,
a reminder that I should clean more, do more,
better again and again.

But with the spring days longer, they have grown bolder,
and I wake to the glint of fingerprints on my window.

In the waiting days, I used to look
for cracks instead of fingerprints.
I held my breath to listen
to the chips of paint fall
to reveal the water-swollen wood inside.
I was always on alert
for the quiet earthquake of an eggshell.

After a day of timidly waiting outside, they have settled
on the inner glass, daring me to touch.

I protest. I don’t need the distraction of hope,
so I spray and scrub and stay focused
while they become more and more egregious.

In the old dream – the infant born headless, painless
and I can’t make a squeak,
much less scream her back into existence.
I wake frantically searching for her in the crumpled blanket,
relieved to find nothing.

Greasy splotches bloom on my jars and silverware,
jam-tinted blots on paper, they mark my keyboard
and destroy the windless surface of the mirror.

I remember the slick surface of the moment
right before drowning,
the wide-angle lake at my lips,
I could inhale that whole expanse
of shimmer blending into sky.

They are loud. Dipped in paint, they trip across the piano,
leaving green, red, yellow in a space reserved
for black and white, discipline and practice.

When I close my eyes to ignore them,
they begin playing wrong notes. A trick, I presume,
to get my attention.

This spring only counts if it promises
that snow will hold off for another year.
I pressed a lily once that came accidentally
in February, tricked by a streak of sunlight
but unable to grow backwards.
There is merit sometimes
in returning to soil.



Her hand crumbles into pastry –
easy and sweet and she
smiles, knowing that even the crumbs
are worth saving. They may even be
the best part, dots waiting to be connected
with a sticky fingertip.

Even with an ear finally listening,
her voice wouldn’t come. She contorts,
squeezing the air past her throat
and he, never having learned
the language of sighs and exasperation,
feels just a puff of heat, a kiss blown unthinking,
a stolen bit of warmth while peaking into the oven –
a few minutes to golden brown.

In bed, their limbs braided
each of them considers stealing a piece of raw dough.
It would be so easy to remold the flesh,
so obedient at this stage,
Just roll, pull, pat. No one would know.
Instead of speaking, they pass a square of butter
back and forth between their lips.

He had thought, that first morning,
That he could drink her eyes.
He had already watched them pour out
And was so thrilled to find that they weren’t salt water
But dripped slow – egg whites stretched over her cheek
while that burst of muscle surrounding each eye
pinched the yolk inside.



The next morning, I wake up inside a bowling ball,
wondering if I am the thing that makes it so heavy.

The night returns in words but not sentences,
sometimes letters that have chipped off
tumble down the curving walls,
debris that doesn’t plan to be deciphered.
I let them collect at the edges of my feet.

You said drive/guilt/weeks/was/am.
I gather the words one by one, imagine
them falling out of your mouth
right onto my tongue.

I don’t have perfect pitch and I don’t trust my ears
to tell me the truth about tone,
but my tongue has always been a good confidante.

You said shouldn’t/used/hungry/not/when.
I am already making recipes for the next hundred dinners
in case we want to eat together every time.
A skill I am proud of: I can take leftovers –
words without phrases, nouns without objects –
and make them taste good together in a pan.

I find the word love in a pile at my feet,
uncertain which one of us had said it,
uncertain of whether it has lost its tense,
but I keep it close, just in case I can find a place for it.

When I was little I used to imagine sitting just like this,
curled up against the concave side of a sphere,
somewhere higher than gravity’s reach.
Some days, it was a soap bubble. Some days it was a moon.


Lightning Rod

Some nights, I dream of lightning rising from my fingertips.
These jagged, purple roots grow out
and search for soil, something, solid
ground for planting stray electrons.

I used to wake up with my pillowcases burned,
this lightning had a gift
for etching all the questions, falls, the held
breath of the day – it turned
my sheets into a tattered shrine to stories
that could only dream of being biblical.

I used to go to bed with gloves
or dig my fingers deep inside my blanket’s
generous rolls of fat.
I looked for insulation in the nooks
of a used mattress
or sacrificed the space behind my knees,
because inside those cramped and wrinkled
plots of skin, the etching
could be hidden, tangled beyond doubt.

But lately, I’ve been waking without scars,
and falling easily without a fear of being struck.
My hands found solid ground
inside your shoulders, curved
around the landscapes of your head,
the lightning rests.

Or can you feel it in your bones?
I don’t know if a lightning rod
was what you thought you’d be
when you grew up –
but clearly, it’s a gift.
So, thank you.



It shocks me that I don’t know you inside out,
that you – my cells, my blood, my body reconfigured –
are somehow other. You are not my mind.

Your eyes are not my own reflected back.
Black mirrors, I thought.
But when we meet, they turn out to be lakes
so deep that I’ve forgotten how to swim.

I thought it would be gradual.
I thought that you would grow from egg to wing
to tree to cloud and further, bigger into sky.
I thought naively that I would have time
to memorize each nook and cranny of your brain.
If I went blind or deaf, I’d recognize you just by touch.

I planned to paint your portrait every day
to document as you expand from photorealism
to a sketch, to murals splashed abstract and wild.

I planned to know all that it true about my child
as she grew from a me, into a you.

And though I know you are my body inside out,
you are already sky too big for me to hold,
so we reverse, I fold
my body underneath your mystery and wait
for you to look at me, reach down,
invite me up to fly.

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