Honeyed mystery of mahogany,

oak, walnut, teak, Fall’s tawny

offerings sanded into curves,

smooth invitation to touch,

like the sun-warmed thigh

& rising hip of that sunbaked

young woman you once were,

drowsing on a black sand beach

in Santorini, water beading

on your belly.



This box hides your secrets:

How did you get from there to here?

What bodies? What lies?

The stolen quarters/kisses,

the unmade bed, the 6 a.m. departure.

What did you know & when?



After you’ve been unmade,

can you learn trust like fitting

pieces of different puzzles

together? Remember how

they returned your uterus

to its wet cave after the knife

discharged its shrieking cargo?



How do you birth yourself

into a new name, receive

the gift of it in another’s mouth,

let it melt onto another’s tongue

like Amaro—bitter/sweet & smoky,

let that same tongue undress

your inhibitions, rendering

skin & sinew, splaying bones,

exposing the last hidden chamber?



Is it too much—

all this allowing?

How your ribcage’s rusty hinges

once oiled with clamor and hush

swung wider and wider in desire.



Were you too much, wearing

your need like drought?

How he slipped away

in millimeters of silence,

disappearing even as he stood

before you—naked, dripping,




Your blind fingers stagger

around the subtle lynchpin.

Had we arrived at the end

of each other? Or could a box

be a road to reunion?



Relax. Let surrender carve

a door to a new dimension. Step

through. Let his arms curve

around you. Let his elegant hands

reveal what was jigsawed shut:

a lacuna large enough

for hope.


Elya Braden

Elya Braden is a writer and mixed-media artist living in Ventura County, CA, and is an editor for Gyroscope Review. She is the author of the chapbooks Open The Fist (2020) and The Sight of Invisible Longing, a semi-finalist in Finishing Line Press’s New Women’s Voices Competition (March 2023). Her work has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, Sequestrum, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Louisville Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets. www.elyabraden.com.

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