“The Therapist Asks Me, ‘What Are You Afraid Of?'” A Poem by Taylor Byas

I think of the word hunger, both a noun
and something my hands are capable of.
How my parents made a little god

of me when they fed them, placed a snow
globe in my palms’ chalice. Inside the dome,
a sleeping city I’d shake awake, shake back

to their hurting—I promise there’s an answer
to your question in here somewhere. Every
night, I whipped the glitter into a storm

and the same small figurines grasped
at one another in the cold; nothing changed
this. Some nights, I wound the metal key

for a lullaby and when no one danced,
I questioned my own God. I played the shrill
song until it yawned into a dirge

or some sort of warning, and I would say
that maybe this is a metaphor for life, or love,
but I know you’d make sure to write

that down. And you’re nodding because
you’re so sure you know where this is going—
yes, sometimes even our most precious things

can slip through our fingers. When I shattered it,
I couldn’t make a noise. A wisp of the music
box’s song escaped the glass like a spirit,

there was no difference between the feeling
of water and blood beneath my feet. You leaning
forward like this is gossip (and this too

is another way to hunger) but my life was
changed. I stepped right into the glass because
I thought that would be the worst part,

and it wasn’t. Knifed an ugly tree into the sole.
My scars grew fruit that scabbed over, dropped
in the new season. The remembering hurt

more than the living because shame dials
in. You hearing me? I was naive enough
to think I could control a life. Even mine.


Copyright © 2023 by Taylor Byas, from I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times. Excerpted by permission of Soft Skull Press.

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