About the Feature

Photo by Umanoide on Unsplash


The orchestra ambushes me with Mahler’s Fifth.
I never played; I have no innate sense of music,
so it’s a shock to feel the brass ransack my body.
Stop I rasp when the trumpets make my edges blur
and a solo horn tugs my soul through my throat.
Stop. You need permission to touch me this way.

I’m not lost, I just know this isn’t the way.
I have my landmarks—the clock tower on Fifth,
the bronze fountain where you ogled my throat,
a bank that was a Friendly’s. To me, places are music,
shifting and resolving. Maps make my eyes blur,
but I can get you where you need to go. Ask anybody.

Every day is a negotiation with my body—
to love or not to love, to weigh or not to weigh?
I long to be a head in a jar, or a quick blur
of binary in a B-cupped android. Oh yes, the fifth
generation model with no lag, lithe legs, pop music
streaming from a discrete vent hidden in the throat.

My mother left the dentist with bruises on her throat
and collarbone, yellow-green. He’d pushed her body
for leverage as, against a background of tinny Muzak,
he yanked at her wisdom teeth. Or that’s the way
she explained it to me—I only caught every fifth
word, the anesthesia making her story blur.

Dear F—, did my letter reach you, did the rain blur
my return address? Did my note slip down the throat
of the sewer, is it sitting in a distant pool of filth,
unopened? Short of that, I can’t imagine somebody
reading what I wrote and not responding. I can wait.
Maybe you’re tied up, maybe you’re too sick.

Erato, Urania? Which of the brave muses
will claim my janky poems, the ones that blur
comedy and bruise, elegy and sway?
Calliope, send your sister to grip me by the throat
until truth steams from every vent in my body.
I’ll take any mother’s touch, even if she’s a myth.

In music, the obbligato must be played precisely the way
it was written. In the body—in the throat—the same is true.
We recite our page (no blur, no shift) for the fourth time. For the fifth.

About the Author

Erica Reid is a Colorado poet, editor, and critic. Her debut collection, Ghost Man on Second, won the 2023 Donald Justice Poetry Prize and will be published by Autumn House Press in early 2024. Erica’s poems appear in Rattle, Birmingham Poetry Review, the Inflectionist Review, and more. ericareidpoet.com