Artwork by Alex WalshAlexandra Barylski


A mouth knows shapes for certain dying.

Says lunulas grey-bluing
like whites unseparated on
laundry day.

Murmurs knees
violaceous mottling, plum over
stone of cartilage and bone.

Whispers spine
blood pooling, thick-foamed
like a red sea at the sacrum

Sighs chest
heart open last exhale, slow breath
swan dive, elsewhere unveiled.

My doctor’s mouth discloses
illness is not an assured shape.

Not start and finish, nothing marked or measured
and familiar like Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor ending
in a plagal cadence, definitive musical Amen.

Not sea-drifted storm wreckage washed up tattered,
no pretending to be wholly whatever china cup,
beer bottle, water glass life it lived before.

Not a magnolia’s petioles cupping broad-lipped flowers
oyster white, steady browning, wilted greens
shriveled, petals yellow-fleshed ending.

Not clear sloped decay of decomposition,
apricots time-lapsed displaying flesh’s
singular route to purification.

My mouth seeks contours
for imprecise perishing.

My lips move in silence wanting
what will not be given a sensible frame,
an intelligible container, an architecture of is.

Alexandra Barylski is a writing tutor. She is currently volunteering in several schools as a poet-mentor for teens. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Echoes of LBI, The Mackinac, Entropy, Ithaca Lit, Porter Gulch Review, and Ruminate Magazine. She is the recipient of the 2015 Morton Marcus Poetry Prize.