When we returned,
our language was broken.
Had been broken.
The verb should be active;
this is not a thing
that just happened
like dust gathering on a mantel
like snow gathering on a mantle.

They pulled our syllables apart
like meat from bone;
they cracked our marrow.
They burned our words from our mouths.
They forced in their own,
sharp corners gouging.
My mother
uses their word
for blood.

We returned,
scraping their language from our skins.
We returned,
shadows of our words around us,
pale from generation loss,
copy after copy;
generation lost,
we cannot sing
our grandmothers’ songs.
We do not know the meaning of these sounds.

Our language is (has been) broken
and we return to solve it,
resolve it,
bring it into focus,
piece it together –
we circle an unknown word,
define its boundaries,
map its negative space.
We learn a word by its shape,
by the void it leaves.
We learn a heart by its loss.

Zetetic separator

—Shira Lipkin’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Interfictions 2, Stone Telling, and other wonderful magazines and anthologies; two of their stories have been recognized as Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and they have won the Rhysling Award for best short poem. Their nonfiction has appeared at Salon. They co-edit Liminality, a magazine of speculative poetry, with Mat Joiner. They live in Boston. Their cats are bigger than their dog.

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  1. The Word for Loss is Missing
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    […] “The Word for Loss is Missing” appeared in Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry in November 2016. […]

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