From the High Priestess to the Hanged Man

No one ever explains that bones rust,
joints locking like a memory
gone faulty and off–key. Instead, we
thank our limitations, praising
their sharp flint, ignoring
the burning and the smoke—
the alarms unheeded and commonplace.

Sometimes, you don’t know the monster
until you’ve seen it, and the worst
villain is the one who has no name
and no reflection, just dead feathers,
a burning–down house,
and an empty street—
all evidence of an error
you don’t quite remember making.

This is why we stay
in marriages so empty
that they’ve gone inside out, hurling
ourselves like birds, headlong
into panes of glass, our bodies
left like offerings for ordinary gods,
deadbolts singing
in our unkissed mouths—
hearts picked so clean
that all structure has been lost.

It is not enough to stay.
There is no miracle in the act itself,
it has no praisable parts,
just an outline made of bones
and expectation—no blood,
just a cadre of beggars
with hands so full of asking
that you can count each rib
of the word want.

Do not take this life
for granted, leaning so far
into the cups that you forget
the word sky. There is no magic
in training your heart
until you flinch
like an abused junkyard dog,
until you crack open your past
like champagne
and get drunk on all your old mistakes—
there’s no glamour in martyring yourself.

Pull the house down
if you must, but do not vanish
into your regrets; sometimes
going home means leaving
the one that’s familiar,
forgoing ghosts
for a song of streetlights,
no more walks
in a neighborhood
where the birds do not sing.

No one tells you
that it’s okay to still have dreams
and pay a mortgage; no one
explains that you are more
than your evaporating
bank account—but I am telling you now:
forget the cold, occupied sheets,
forget the ugly absence of celebration,
forget the way loneliness burns
like cheap rum—
stop setting yourself on fire
for a man–made god
that isn’t even listening.


Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word-nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nightmare, Fireside, Strange Horizons, Mermaids Monthly, and Cicada magazines, as well as in The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. She has a poem forthcoming in Asimov’s. Her short fiction has appeared in Curtains, a flash fiction anthology. A geek to the core, she’s previously written TV show reviews for Blastoff Comics, as well as a few personal essays. Ali’s always scribbling on napkins, looking for magic in the world, and bursting into song. When she isn’t word-wrangling, she’s being a kitchen witch, hugging an animal, or pretending to be a mermaid. Follow her on Twitter as @alwayscoffee or subscribe to her TinyLetter. Four of her poems, including three for Uncanny, were Rhysling Award nominees.

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