Dead Languages

Anna Kelley

We fought. He drank. I ripped

 

           open a silver bag of Scrabble tiles

           seam to seam & scattered like blood

 

the pieces. We liked a board

between us. He was the one

 

           who never cheated & drew nucleii

           in the margins of the papers we used

 

to keep score. He said, don’t help me. 

I didn’t. I hummed the first bars

 

           of a Bob Dylan song. The tiles

           clicking & clean in my hands 

 

felt safe. We played. He sketched me

 

           as Joan of Arc & I laid down

           every beautiful thing to exist

 

in words. He said, I see.

He didn’t. I was the one

 

           who always cried & challenged

           each triple word score. We held

 

tight. He played in pronouns.

I spelled lozenge. I spelled nox

 

           & skipped my next two turns 

           while he drew lilacs. We fought

 

to win. We gnawed our lips like 

animals at their bits. He drank

 

           till I grew quiet & his doodles

           sprawled messy over the page

 

like the blond wooden squares across

my palm. He left for a smoke. I stayed

 

           & he came back in time

           to find me spelling words

 

in dead languages. When the tiles ran out

I spelled them on his skin with my breath.

Anna Kelley is pursuing an MFA in poetry at Syracuse University. She is a reader for Salt Hill and moonlights as a skater for Assault City Roller Derby. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Citron Review, Literary Orphans, Cosmonauts Avenue, CICADA, and others.